An Almost Perfect Day For Utah’s Fisher

By Kurt Kragthorpe
Updated: May 10, 2007

NBA Playoffs SALT LAKE CITY — It would be intriguing if the biggest challenge facing Derek Fisher was the fact he had not shot a basketball in three days.

It would make a wonderful tale if Fisher’s three-pointer from the left corner that helped wrap up the Jazz’s 127-117 overtime victory over Golden State was the biggest thing he was worried about Wednesday.

It would already go down in Jazz playoff history, how Fisher arrived at EnergySolutions Arena late in the third quarter, changed into his uniform and checked into the game without even stopping along the bench.

But there is more to this story. Much more. It is something only a parent could understand, something nobody should have to deal with on the job or at any other time. Fisher’s 10-month-old daughter, Tatum, underwent treatment Wednesday in New York for a rare form of cancer, lodged behind her eye.

And her father flew home with her and went to work, relieved by what he described as “really good news,” fearful of what still lies ahead for her and hopeful that the next three or four weeks will bring more encouraging progress, while this other little exercise called the NBA playoffs continues.

It was a night – a weeklong sequence of events, really, following the diagnosis – that left Fisher wondering how he managed to do what he did in a basketball game that meant so much to him and yet so little, if that’s possible.

“I don’t know how I got through this, I really don’t,” he said.

Actually, he knows. He did with faith, with prayers, with support from his teammates, friends, relatives and nearly 20,000 fans who greeted him with a standing ovation when he took the floor.

They understood, yet they did not truly understand. They had some idea of Fisher’s family situation, yet they really had no idea. They appreciated his efforts to show up and play, but they did not really appreciate everything he was going through.

They couldn’t have. Still, “I couldn’t believe it,” he said of the response. “Just his presence is amazing,” said teammate Carlos Boozer.

Nobody could have scripted any of this, much less all of it. By the time Fisher and his family landed in Salt Lake City, reserve point guard Dee Brown had gone to the hospital with a neck injury.

Deron Williams, the starter, was playing with foul trouble. The Jazz needed help, and Fisher arrived just in time, although the Warriors almost spoiled the whole thing. They led by five points in the last minute of regulation, threatening to tie the series.

Fisher helped the Jazz get to overtime, hounding former teammate Baron Davis into coming up short on a three-point attempt at the buzzer.

As overtime began, Fisher fed Boozer for a layup. Eventually, he knew he would have to shoot the ball, even if he had not taken a shot since Sunday’s practice.

His opportunity – his responsibility, more accurately – to deliver came when Williams passed him the ball and he launched the shot without hesitating with 1:06 remaining and the Jazz up by three points.

“Perfect timing,” Fisher said of the shot, figuring he was into the flow of the game enough to take it and make it, regardless of his lack of practice.

Perfect timing . Now, if only Tatum’s condition was discovered soon enough. Then, this story will have a happy ending.