SAN ANTONIO While he and his family were on the plane from New York City to San Antonio Wednesday night, the pilots gave Derek Fisher an update on the first quarter of the game his team was playing.
The Jazz were being trounced by what Spurs guard Tony Parker called maybe the best first quarter his team had had since he joined it in 2001. The Spurs took a 34-15 first-quarter lead and parlayed it into a 109-84 victory in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals at AT&T Center to end Utah's season.
Fisher's team was almost eliminated before he got there Wednesday, and there would be little chance for him to make the kind of inspirational entrance he had against Golden State in Game 2 of the conference semifinals. That time, he forced a Golden State turnover that helped put the game into overtime, and his 3-pointer was the eventual game-winner three weeks ago, after he'd traveled back to Salt Lake following his baby daughter's surgical treatment in New York for a rare form of eye cancer.
Wednesday he had a similar day, with 11-month-old Tatum, one of the Fisher twins, receiving a similar treatment in New York, a treatment in which chemotherapy is injected directly into the tumor in the eye because she is too young to undergo conventional chemotherapy.
"She's doing well," Fisher reported about Tatum "We had a successful treatment this morning, as far as we can tell at this point, and we're kind of back to day to day for a few weeks, just watching and monitoring what's going on with her. We have a lifelong battle ahead of us, so we're taking things one day at a time.
"She is responding well, and hopefully we can keep going in a positive direction."
Fisher and his family flew from New York to San Antonio after the treatment, which only about 10 other children have had. The disease, Retinoblastoma, can be fatal.
Fisher arrived at the arena at halftime and started the third quarter, but the Jazz were already behind 55-39.
"My guys understand where I was and what I was doing, but I'm disappointed that I couldn't be there at the start," said Fisher.
"Tonight was tough, from an emotional standpoint and a physical standpoint. We've been playing every other day, and then after the game on Monday we took right off and flew to New York and then flying back across the country today, and by the time I get here, our chances of winning the game are slim.
"I know miracles are possible, and I knew that's what we were going to need in order to come back and win this game," Fisher said of his reaction to the tale the pilots told him of Utah's awful first-quarter situation.
But as he made his way from the airport to the arena, he was thinking that if the Jazz could get the lead down to 10 by the beginning of the fourth period, they could extend their season. "That's just the way I believe," he said.
There would be no comeback, but Fisher said he considered the loss to be "the beginning, not the end" for a Jazz team that will contend for years to come, he said.
"We accomplished a great deal for a team with a very young nucleus," Fisher said.As for himself and his family, they headed back to Salt Lake together Wednesday night and plan to spend several weeks there while his stepson finishes the school season, and they will contend with his daughter's cancer over the summer.