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Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011

Lakers' Fisher pleased to trade suits for shorts


EL, Segundo California — Derek Fisher works his way around the perimeter, hoisting jumpers in a solitary shooting drill at the Los Angeles Lakers' quiet training complex.

News photo
Back to work: L akers guard Derek Fisher prepares to take a shot at the team's training complex in El Segundo, California, on Friday. AP PHOTO

Ah, the joys of a simple day job.

The NBA players' union president is out of his suits and back in shorts after the league's brutal labor negotiations, focusing on another season with the Lakers.

"I'm grateful for the experience, but hopefully next week we'll be back to basketball," Fisher said Friday during a pause in his workout. "It was an exhausting ordeal, but I'm still in a good space and looking forward to working with Coach Brown."

That would be new Lakers coach Mike Brown, who finally can make some concrete plans more than six months after succeeding 11-time NBA champion Phil Jackson. General manager Mitch Kupchak also is back at work on the truncated offseason, trying to find any way to cram additional depth into the NBA's largest payroll.

The Lakers are in transition after getting swept out of the second round of last year's playoffs by the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks, abruptly ending Los Angeles' quest for a three-peat. Yet there's also ample continuity around Kobe Bryant: Almost every significant player on last season's roster is returning, and the Lakers don't have room to add much more, with Kupchak saying they'll be "very limited" in free agency.

"We believe this team, as structured, can contend," Kupchak said. "And on the flip side, we'll continue to look at all opportunities to improve the team. That could be very minor . . . but who knows what the future will hold?"

Brown realizes he'll have almost no time to install his new systems with the Lakers before they open the season on Christmas against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. He gave a DVD to all of his players with a detailed explanation of his defensive strategies before the lockout, but knows they'll need time to grasp its intricacies.

"I enjoy practice. I like to practice a lot, and long," Brown said. "We won't have a lot of days, but everybody is going to have the same amount of days. We have to make sure we don't overdo it. . . . I've just got to make sure I don't blow my head off my shoulders with excitement and anticipation about going on the floor."

The longtime Cleveland Cavaliers coach developed his philosophy as an assistant under Rick Carlisle at Indiana and Gregg Popovich at San Antonio, so it won't be entirely foreign to his players — particularly Metta World Peace, who was Ron Artest when he played for Brown with the Pacers.

There's another question for the season: What should Brown call the erstwhile Artest, who changed his name in September?

"I might call him Metta, or just Met," Brown said with a laugh. "You definitely don't want to call him Peace, because he might think that's grounds to leave practice."

Kupchak said he would like to keep backup shooting guard Shannon Brown, but realizes Brown could get a larger, longer contract with another team as a free agent. The GM will search for another ball-handling guard to take Brown's spot, hoping to find a talented veteran who will accept a modest contract for a shot at a ring.

"When your payroll is as high as ours, it's not like you can snap your fingers and reduce it quickly," said Kupchak, who already had $85 million committed to eight players for this season before the labor woes. "We don't feel like anybody on our team is dramatically overpaid . . . but we're going to be very limited in what we can do with this team in free agency."

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