Does anyone around here realize who and what the Oklahoma City Thunder got when it signed Derek Fisher? Really?
I don’t think so.
There’s still quite a bit of talk around town that gives you the feeling Derek Fisher is Kevin Ollie 2.0 and not someone the Thunder should be granting important minutes. I hear a good bit of it around my office.
Did last night change anyone’s mind? The Thunder rolled over the Lakers, 102-93, in a game that competitively wasn’t that close. But Oklahoma City was wobbling when Fisher stabilized things with seven points in the second quarter. None came on forced 3-point attempts. Everything was off drives and pull-up jumpers in the flow or off a hustle play, like Fisher’s and-one basket after Nick Collison went to the floor for a loose ball.
Derek Fisher wears his age on his No. 37 jersey, but he’s got the body of a light-weight fighter and the heart and mind of — well — a champion.
Here’s what Thunder center Kendrick Perkins (himself an NBA champion with the Celtics) told Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears about Fisher: “He’s won five rings. Now I can kind of shut up around here and listen to him.”
I also like what Thunder coach Scott Brooks said on the radio pregame show Thursday: The Thunder didn’t sign Fisher to sit around the campfire and tell stories about the Lakers’ championship days. They got him because he can play.
The other day the Sports Animal’s Al Eschbach made the best point about why Fisher can play better here than he did in L.A.: The Lakers traded Fisher basically because he couldn’t guard quick point guards like Russell Westbrook anymore. But in Oklahoma City he’s playing with Westbrook, not against him, and guarding everyone else’s backup point guard.
Meanwhile, the Ramon Sessions hysteria might be wearing off in Tinseltown. The Lakers still don’t have anyone who can guard Westbrook, and I’m not certain that anyone does.
The Thunder’s defensive culture is perfect for Fisher and vice versa. On defense, Fisher is prone to crowding opposing point guards like a boxer cutting off the ring. He’s not going to be guarding Derrick Rose Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, so Brooks need not worry about too many contingency plans. But just in case there’s Serge Ibaka’s incomparable weakside shotblocking skills, and Nick Collison’s uncanny weakside help. Fisher, whose trade to Houston made him out to be the scapegoat for the fact that the Lakers aren’t the Lakers anymore, had no backing like that in L.A.
When the ball is in his hands, Fisher always makes the right play, always does what the team needs and/or what the coach asked him to do. You think jacking all those 3-pointers last Friday night against Minnesota was his idea? It was a court-spreading strategy that worked splendidly — taking one more defender away from the basket and clearing a better path for Westbrook’s drives that contributed to a 45-point night.
Sometimes it’s easy to miss the little things guys like Derek Fisher contribute. But it’s not just the little things. More than one national expert has said it: Sometime in the playoffs, Derek Fisher is going to win a big game for the Thunder. He didn’t win that game Thursday night, but I’m not positive the Thunder would have won without his second-quarter contribution.
I don’t think it’s crazy talk to believe that playing in OKC could add a couple years to Fisher’s career. Hopefully it won’t take that long for some folks in OKC to figure out what the Thunder has in the player Royal Ivey has taken to calling “Uncle Fish.”