Derek Fisher could provide a valuable veteran presence to a team with championship aspirations. (Stephen Dunn/GETTY IMAGES)

The backcourt duo came into the league together as rookies in 1996 and went on to win five NBA championships with the Lakers.

When asked about his feelings on the Lakers’ decision to deal the 37-year-old point guard to Houston last week, Bryant said it was “very difficult.”

“I’m not used to it because I’ve been with him my entire career aside from that little stint that he had away from us. So, it’s very different for me. It’s pretty weird.”

A potential playoff matchup against his former teammate would be even more weird — but it’s now a distinct possibility.

The Rockets bought out the remainder of Fisher’s contract over the weekend, allowing him to sign with another team — and the Western Conference leading Oklahoma City Thunder are among his potential suitors.

The Lakers dealt Fisher to the Rockets for backup big man Jordan Hill, but the deal was made primarily to clear playing time for point guard Ramon Sessions, who Los Angeles acquired from Cleveland one day earlier.

Houston was eager to bring Fisher aboard, and planned to pick up his $3.4 million option for 2012-13. But the two parties agreed to the buyout on Sunday. If Fisher clears waivers by Wednesday, he will be free to sign with any other team but the Lakers.

Fisher’s departure from L.A. was tough for Kobe to take. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

“Derek’s desire to win a sixth championship is what drives him and will continue to drive him as he moves forward,” Wior said in a statement.

The Thunder could use a point guard to back up All-Star Russell Westbrook after they lost Eric Maynor to a season-ending knee injury, and Fisher’s veteran presence could boost the postseason prospects of a still-young roster. ESPN’s Mark Stein reports that the Thunder are pondering whether to register a formal bid for Fisher.

For his part, Fisher is said to be interested in joining the Chicago Bulls or Miami Heat. Injuries have been an issue all season for MVP Derrick Rose, and adding a durable, experienced point guard would give the Eastern Conference’s top team more time to ease their star back into the lineup.

In Miami, Fisher would spell Mario Chalmers and add a veteran hand to a team loaded with talent but short on championship experience beyond Dwyane Wade.

Fisher, who had played in 537 consecutive games before the trade, is averaging 5.9 points and 3.3 assists in just over 25 minutes per game this season.

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