Related Stories Syracuse lacrosse head coach John Desko wins 2nd consecutive ACC Coach of the Year awardSyracuse men’s lacrosse’s offense is rounding into form at just the right timeSyracuse weathers Duke comeback to win 2nd straight ACC tournament championship4 Syracuse lacrosse players earn All-ACC honors Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on May 8, 2016 at 9:10 pm Contact Jon: [email protected] | @jmettus Syracuse was named the No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament and will face Albany (12-3, 6-0 America East) in the first round in the Carrier Dome on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.The Orange beat the Great Danes on Feb. 21, 16-7. It was SU’s second game of the season and Albany’s first.The Orange finished the season 11-4 (2-2 Atlantic Coast) and received an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament when it won its second ACC title in a row. SU battled back from a stretch of four losses in five games during the middle of the season to win five straight — three over ranked teams.Syracuse boasts the seventh-best offense in the country with 12.9 goals per game. Dylan Donahue leads the way with 59 points (28 goals and 31 assists) while Massachusetts transfer Nick Mariano has the most goals on the team with 34. Junior Sergio Salcido hadn’t scored a goal through the first two years of his career, but has 26 this season and is second on the team in points.Faceoff specialist Ben Williams’ 63.1 percent winning percentage is eighth-best. Since becoming the Orange’s starter in goal seven games ago, Evan Molloy is 6-1 with a 58.3 save percentage.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIf SU wins its first-round matchup, it will play its quarterfinal game in Providence, Rhode Island on May 21 against either No. 1 seed Maryland, Quinnipiac or Hartford.
A sense of calmness radiated through Derek Fisher’s voice as he boarded the Thunder’s team plane, giving a sense that not much has changed since he wore a Lakers uniform.He’s averaging a career-low 2.7 points on 35.2-percent shooting, raising the never-ending gripes about Fisher’s age (39), a streaky shooting stroke and a lack of foot speed. Yet, his coaches and teammates endlessly laud him for his on-court hustle and locker-room leadership. But as he sat on the team plane before the Thunder traveled this week for a set of back-to-back games in Atlanta and Memphis, one significant backdrop was different.Fisher will retire after this season, putting an end to an 18-year career that brought him five NBA championships and becoming the league’s second-oldest player behind the Lakers’ Steve Nash. “I rarely use the word never, but I feel like this is a good opportunity to put a cap on a great career,” Fisher said in an interview this week with this newspaper. “I think we have a legitimate chance to make a run at the title.”Fisher’s quest to earn his sixth championship seems realistic. The Thunder (17-4) enter tonight’s game against the Lakers (10-11) at Chesapeake Energy Arena with a four-game winning streak, an undefeated home record (10-0) and the NBA’s leading scorer in Kevin Durant (28.4 points per game on 47.2-percent shooting). Fisher also notices Durant and Russell Westbrook adopting similar traits from Bryant that ensured five NBA titles. “Kevin has a lot of Kobe’s versatility. Kobe is a very versatile player and has all the skills. He can shoot, he can dribble, he can pass, he can defend and he wants to win,” Fisher said. “With Russell, I see similarities in the way that Kobe wanted to impose his will on every game. They try to physically dominate so they can attack the game. They have no conscience shooting the ball. They take and make the big shots and they play through their mistakes.”Bryant has played differently in two games since returning from a left Achilles tendon injury that sidelined him for eight months. Bryant has morphed between becoming a ball-handling point guard and off-ball screen setter instead of his usual dominant scoring role. He’s averaged 14.5 points on 40-percent shooting, 3.5 assists and 5.5 turnovers through two games, a far cry from his career averages of 25.5 points on 45.4-percent shooting and 4.7 assists. “It’s been difficult for him to persevere through all the different stages of rehab that he’s gone through just so he can come back,” Fisher said. “Now that he’s back on the court, I think there’s a new beginning. This is the first step. I see a very strong trajectory going up in the near future.”What will that entail?“When the switch goes on, it will go on to the way people are accustomed toward seeing Kobe Bryant play,” Fisher said. “It’s just a matter of time before that happens.”For Fisher’s sake, hopefully not quickly enough for Bryant to lead the Lakers out of a 12th-place standing in the Western Conference and unexpectedly spoil the Thunder’s title aspirations. A sixth NBA title for Fisher would put him in a tie with Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Scottie Pippen and Bob Cousy. Do Bryant and Fisher engage in friendly banter over who will end his career with the most rings?“That never comes up. In some ways, I can’t even fathom winning championships and looking up and not seeing him right there,” said Fisher, who played with Bryant for 12½ seasons before being traded in 2012 to Houston in a salary dump. “It’s hard to even have that kind of conversation. But at the same time, we’ll feel very driven to try to be on a championship team again before our career is over.”That’s why Fisher said he hasn’t planned yet for post-retirement. “I’m not going to want to necessarily just sit around the house, but I’ll take a step back from the grind of the NBA schedule and see where my heart and passion takes me,” said Fisher, who believes he’ll have some broadcasting opportunities. “I want to take a step back right after retiring from playing and see through conversations, meetings and discussions what would fit the best.”After serving as the president of the National Basketball Players Association during the 145-day lockout in 2011, Fisher also expressed interest in possible leadership positions. But Fisher still has to deal with an early termination lawsuit from former NBA players’ union executive director Billy Hunter that accuses Bryant and his agent Rob Pelinka of acting on behalf of Fisher by urging Hunter to accept a 50-50 split in of basketball-related income. Both sides eventually agreed to a near 50-50 split, but Fisher has denied he secretly negotiated with owners. “I don’t really lose a lot of sleep over it,” Fisher said. “We have attorneys who are doing the heavy lifting. It’s in the hands of the lawyers and the legal system. Hopefully something will get figured out and clarified pretty soon.” Instead, Fisher pledges he will focus his last NBA season, fulfilling a job description that sounds very familiar to Laker fans. “I’m trying to continue building this team in terms of the relationships. I think they appreciate feedback better when they know you more,” Fisher said. “If I make some shots, that’s great. But I’m always going to do a lot of other things that don’t necessarily show up in the stat sheet that helps my team win.”Fisher did that plenty of times with the Lakers, including his game-winner with .04 seconds left in the Lakers’ Game 5 win over the San Antonio Spurs in the 2004 West semifinals and his endless clutch shots in the 2009 NBA Finals and 2010 NBA playoffs en route to two championships.But Fisher talked more on the Lakers’ 2000 NBA season that ended the franchise’s 13-year championship drought and the “luck” he had in staying healthy on talented teams than rehashing his memorable playoff moments.“The success of our teams helped feed my development,” Fisher said. “But if you have a passion or love for something that you do, you’re willing to persevere and endure and fight through adversity and still enjoy the process of what you do.”Soon enough, the Thunder’s plane departed. Fisher had to go to fill that role one last time. 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