Kobe Bryant is planning a hard push to recruit Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom back to the Lakers as free agents in the summer, a source familiar with Bryant’s thinking told NBA.com as Fisher prepares to return to Staples Center as a member of the Thunder.
Whether either would be receptive is unclear – Fisher and Odom loved their seasons in Los Angeles, but were hurt to be traded within the last 3 ½ months. It is known, however, that Bryant plans to use his close friendship with both to convince them that a reunion is in everyone’s best interest, bruised egos and all.
Management — unable to comment on interest in players on another roster — will have to be convinced as well. One of the main reasons Fisher was dealt to the Rockets along with a first-round pick March 15 for seldom-used big man Jordan Hill was the concern over how Fisher would handle playing behind new acquisition Ramon Sessions at point guard. As general manager Mitch Kupchak said the day of the trade:
“It crossed our minds, but I know he would have been professional. Personally, I think it would have been a tough position to put a player like that in.”
Odom, an especially sensitive player, was so hurt to learn he had nearly been traded as part of the Chris Paul blockbuster that he asked the Lakers to complete the breakup and trade him for good. Days later, in a surprising development for an organization that had stood its ground on far-uglier trade demands in the past, Odom was sent to Dallas as the beginning to what has become a disappointing 2011-12 for all involved and prompted obvious questions about his future.
“I have no control over that,” Odom said 2 ½ weeks ago. “That’s the business of basketball, and this is not the time to worry about the business of basketball.”
Odom is under contract for next season, but it is only partially guaranteed and the Mavericks could easily hold the door open for a free-agent departure July 1. Fisher is signed through the end of the season after negotiating a buyout with the Rockets and joining Oklahoma City, the team the Lakers and everyone else is chasing in the West.
Bryant has kept in contact with both, though he said conversations center on personal matters and not basketball. He has kept in particularly close contact with Fisher, part of the Bryant inner-circle like few others, and says, again, they have not talked about what happens in free agency. Still, it is clear from people with knowledge of Bryant’s thinking that he will be lobbying to have the two very popular former Lakers return to the fold.
Asked about the possibility late Tuesday night, after the Lakers played in Oakland, of a reunion with Fisher, Bryant told NBA.com, “I don’t know. I would hope so. But I don’t know. When Fish and I talk, it’s about personal things because we’ve known each other for so long. Lamar too. We keep that other stuff out of it. It’s family, how are you doing, stuff like that.”
Has he talked to Odom about the idea?
“No, not about that, because I don’t want to interfere with what he has going on in Dallas,” Bryant said. “Right now, it’s just more about him being OK and making sure that he’s doing what he can to help the Dallas Mavericks out.”
The topic will inevitably come up over the next couple days, as Fisher returns to Los Angeles and the Thunder play the Lakers on Thursday.
“It’s going to be strange, him going to the visitors’ locker room,” Bryant said. “It’s going to be strange. I talk to him pretty much every single day, though. Still. In terms of our personal relationship, this really hasn’t been any separation in that sense. But seeing him come into Staples Center in a different uniform is going to be extremely, extremely weird for us all.”