NBA@2: Where Does Derek Fisher Land?
It’s been a tough week for Derek Fisher. Last week’s NBA trade deadline shook his professional world, as the Los Angeles Lakers traded him to the Houston Rockets in a deal that landed Jordan Hill in LA. Just like that, Fisher went from a team he’s helped win multiple championships to a team that hasn’t won one in decades, and the end result was that he arranged a buyout with Houston. Now Fisher is a free agent, contemplating whether to move into the next phase of his career or to take one more title shot. If he decides to keep playing, there are three teams who would love to add him.
First and foremost, the Oklahoma City Thunder could really use Fisher on several levels. First, of course, he could fill the void left by Eric Maynor’s season-ending injury and back up All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook. Maynor was a huge part of the Thunder’s success last season and an unsung hero in their postseason run to the Western Conference Finals. Fisher is known for his postseason flair, and likely has a couple of amazing game-winners still left in him. More importantly, though, it would be nice if Fisher could lend Westbrook a little perspective. For all of his talent, Westbrook still has a tendency to forget that he’s a distributor, and if Fisher could help Westbrook better grasp the team concept it would be a bigger contribution than anything Fisher brings to the stat sheet directly.
Next up, we have the Chicago Bulls. Yes, the Bulls have a plethora of point guard talent behind Derrick Rose with John Lucas III and C.J. Watson doing yeoman’s duty behind him. Rose’s ongoing issues with his groin have claimed 13 games and counting, with no return date set for Rose’s current stint on the sidelines. Watson and Lucas have been good stories, but if the Bulls are going to hold onto their ever-slimmer grasp of the East’s top seed, Fisher could be the right man to help them do it. As the old saying goes, if you want to be a champion, bring in a champion.
No one wants to hear this, but the Miami HEAT could also be a likely landing spot for Fisher. Miami has surrounded their big three with plenty of great talent, but the point guard position is still one of their primary weak spots. No that Fisher, age 37, is going to be a statistical blizzard at this point in his career, but they don’t need that in Miami. What the HEAT need is a solid hand at the wheel who understands how to feed egos and make the right plays at the right time. They need a point guard who will make the clutch shot or pass when it matters most. Fisher has demonstrated that ability in unwavering fashion time and time again, and he can do so again in the right situation. Miami might be that situation.
There’s another very real possibility, as HOOPSWORLD’s Steve Kyler pointed out in today’s NBA AM, and that is that Fisher could choose to hang up his sneakers and move into a front office position – possibly with the Los Angeles Lakers. Fisher made a name for himself during the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement dispute between the NBA and its players, and it’s clear he would be a valuable asset to a team’s front office or even to the NBA’s offices in New York.
Whatever Fisher decides, he will have plenty of options, whether he looks to continue his career on or off the court.
Corey Maggette: Charlotte’s X-Factor
There haven’t been many positives for the Charlotte Bobcats this season, particularly from the outside looking in. Casual NBA fans see one of the worst teams in the league losing night after night, but the truth is the Bobcats are just about where they want to be. They’re in the middle of a major rebuild, and as such they have to make sure their players don’t fall victim to those dismal outside perceptions. One way they have done that is by bringing Corey Maggette in as a veteran leader and positive influence.
“I think the biggest thing is that we have a lot of guys who are really improving despite our record,” Maggette tells HOOPSWORLD. “You may not see that but Kemba (Walker)’s really improving, Bismack (Biyombo)’s improving, Derrick Brown’s improving, DJ White, you have so many guys, Gerald Henderson, you have a lot of guys that are really improving but they didn’t get the opportunity to play that much last year. Through this turmoil you still have an opportunity to get better as a player and to learn and I think a lot of guys are still doing that.”
It may seem strange for a player like Maggette, who could easily be helping a contending team push for a championship, to be content in the midst of a rebuilding project, but Maggette doesn’t mind his role at all.
“No, not at all man. I know my career is coming to an end and when I was a young guy I had Darrel Armstrong helping me out and showing me the ropes, as well as Juwan Howard and those other guys. It’s something you have to do. You have to be a servant to be able to pass the information, to help the other guys and hopefully I do a good job trying to stay positive. Your record is five and whatever, but you have to stay upbeat and positive, man, because this is the best job in the world and you’ve got to keep guys upbeat.”
There was some unfounded talk earlier this season that Bobcats head coach Paul Silas might be on the hot seat, but Maggette understands what a rare thing it is for a team in Charlotte’s situation to find a veteran head coach who is willing to be a teacher and builder and also take the losses that come with that role.
“I love Paul Silas,” says Maggette. “I think he’s a great guy, as well as his son, Stephen Silas. I actually had Stephen in Golden State and had the pleasure of working with him and it’s similar to my position being able to help guys and teach the ropes. You know Paul is doing that with Stephen right now, and Stephen is such a sponge and learning and getting better as coach. I think eventually Stephen is going to have a head coaching job and it’s all because of Paul. Being around basketball, being around a guy that won championships and knows how to play and knows how to win, he’s 70 years old and still has the fire. When I look back this is when a coach is really giving guys an opportunity that you would probably never have an opportunity like this on any other team. I can say that because this is my thirteenth year and guys won’t have this opportunity, so they really need to see this as an opportunity and get better and appreciate what Paul has done for this team.”
Many have also questioned Michael Jordan’s methods in terms of rebuilding his team, but Maggette sees signs that Jordan, too, is learning through this process.
“It was kind of hard for our fans when Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Raymond Felton, those guys left because it was a playoff team. I wasn’t here, but from the outside looking in I think Michael’s still making moves. He’s giving the young guys that he sees a talent to improve and I think they have the perfect coach to do that with Paul Silas because he builds confidence in you. He motivates you as a coach and does a great job. Michael is still learning this business. He’s the greatest basketball player that ever played, but he’s still learning the managerial spot of doing these operations. I think he’s only going to get better. Mark Cuban wasn’t the best in the beginning and it takes time, and I think Michael is going to continue to work because he’s a very competitive person and he’s going to be in a position where he has a championship team.”
The next step in Charlotte’s rebuilding process will be the draft lottery and the 2012 NBA Draft. Maggette gives his scouting report of what the Bobcats need to take the next step.
“I think anybody would fit here, just to help. We are an improving ball club and like I said, we’re in the rebuilding process and any person that comes in could help our team. I know we need bigs, we need some bigs. We definitely need a good three point shooter that could help us out. We need toughness and I think if I’m looking at the draft right now I’d say between Anthony Davis or Thomas Robinson from Kansas. There are a few other guys that you can throw out there that are worthy to be in this opportunity, but we’ve just got to wait and see.”
As important as young, improving players are to the process, young teams also need veteran leadership in the locker room, and there’s no question the Bobcats have the right man for that job in Corey Maggette.
Tempers Rising In Minnesota?
The Minnesota Timberwolves weren’t supposed to make the playoffs this season. That’s the simple truth. When Rick Adelman took over as head coach his plan was to give lots of minutes to young players like Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Wesley Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Derrick Williams and just see where they might want to go with the roster moving forward.
The fact that some of those players took a quantum leap forward this season put the Timberwolves squarely in the Western Conference playoff picture, and caused Adelman to change his approach to a certain extent. Instead of coaching for the future he found himself coaching to win games . . .but all of that changed when Rubio went down for the season with an ACL injury. Now the losses are coming right on schedule, but it’s taking a toll on that young group that had just started to get a taste for the playoffs.
The disappointment came to a head during Minnesota’s 115-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, with Kevin Love and JJ Barea getting into a shouting match during a timeout.
“Part of the game, competitors trying to win,” Barea said, while also labeling it the worst loss of the season by the Timberwolves. “We’re frustrated that we’re losing, but it happens, every basketball team. We just got into it. It’s all right. He said something I didn’t like, I said it back and we’re all good. Nothing against him.”
“It’s nothing personal with J.J.,” Love agreed. “I think we’re both frustrated and we took it out on each other when we should have taken it out on the other team. That was both of our mistake, both of our bad.”
It’s easy to understand the frustration as the Timberwolves have lost three straight and are now two full games out of the West’s eighth seed. If Rubio hadn’t gone down (and if the Jamal Crawford trade had gone down) they would likely have continued to climb in the standings. But Rubio did get hurt and Crawford isn’t coming to town this season. Fortunately, Adelman is well versed in situations like this and has the right message for his team.
“If there’s frustration on the bench, you have to direct it to who we’re playing,” said Adelman after the game. “I think that stuff is going to happen. Nobody on this team is going to do it individually. We’re either going to do it as a team and together or we’re not going to do it. That’s what we talked about after the game, and that’s what we talked about the other night when we lost. You’ve got to do it as a group or you’re not going to break through.”
Far better to have his players frustrated with losing, however, than to have them laughing their way through it, as some NBA teams do. That frustration is a sign of intensity, and that intensity will make the Timberwolves even harder to beat when they are again at full strength next season.
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