Derek Fisher hasn't had a lot to smile about this season. That happens when you're the coach of a 12-51 team.

At least Fisher is virtually assured of one thing tonight when the Knicks visit the Lakers at Staples Center: a nice hand from the home crowd.

"The city of L.A. has been phenomenal to me, so I don't expect it or I don't feel entitled to it," said Fisher, who helped the Lakers win five NBA titles. "But I'm always appreciative of how people respond to your hard work. I think that's what we all kind of hope will happen -- you work at something, you put your all into it and maybe people appreciate it."

As Fisher was discussing his return to Los Angeles following the Knicks' 87-82 loss to the Jazz on Tuesday, Hall of Famer Walt Frazier happened to walk by. It gave the former point guard a point of comparison. "We had some great years there and great teams," Fisher said. "The same way for Walt Frazier . That doesn't go away. When life takes you somewhere else, every time you come back, I think people appreciate what you accomplished while you were there."

Fisher was considered as a possible candidate for the Lakers' head coaching job this offseason before he came to the Knicks under team president Phil Jackson. Fisher never had contact with Los Angeles before the Lakers hired Byron Scott.

"It wasn't surprising," Fisher said. "The same way I didn't expect to or not to hear from anybody in particular. Once I kind of opened my conversation and dialogue with Phil after the season was over, I never really had any serious conversations or thoughts about [the Lakers]."

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"So their internal thinking on why or why not, I'm not sure on. But I'm embracing the challenge we have in front of us right now and haven't really thought about missing out on anything, because I'm here and I'm all in with this one."

Thursday night's matchup between two of the NBA's signature franchises will not include either team's marquee player. The Knicks are without Carmelo Anthony and the Lakers (17-46) are missing the injured Kobe Bryant.

"I'm sure for them and their team and organization it's frustrating, but they seem committed to kind of figuring out what they need to do to turn it around," Fisher said. "And we're trying to do the same thing here. Sustaining excellence, greatness, even being really good, to sustain it is hard to do.

"And sometimes we have to kind of start over from actually not ground level, but below the ground and kind of re-soil the foundation in order to have something you can build that's going to stay there for a while. So that's what we're trying to do right now."