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The Thunder React To Derek Fisher Signing
Posted By Susan Bible On March 23, 2012 @ 4:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks gave Derek Fisher fair warning. As crazy as it sounds, Fisher logged minutes in a Thunder uniform roughly two hours after his acquisition was publicly announced. Without a doubt, Brooks knew what lay ahead for his newest player.
“I don’t know if he’s ready for this, but he’s going to get an 18,000-person hug tonight,” Brooks said prior to Fisher’s first Thunder game vs. the Los Angeles Clippers.
Sure enough, when Fisher checked in at the scorer’s table with 1:47 minutes remaining in the first quarter, Brooks’ declaration proved accurate. Thunder fans jumped to their feet, clapping wildly for close to 40 seconds, drowning the announcer’s introduction. Fisher kept to his usual routine, stretching and reading the floor, almost as if he didn’t hear the booming welcome inside the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“Definitely a humbling moment for this community to open their arms this quickly right away to the new guy,” Fisher said. “It was special and really helped me to settle in right away.”
“Trying to get ready for a game basically after 5 o’clock was not easy,” Fisher continued, smiling. “But we figured it out. The welcome from the crowd was kind of the cherry on top.”
When Fisher recently became available, Thunder executive vice president and general manager could not sit back idly.
“It’s not often that an opportunity like this comes about at this point in the season,” explained Presti. “We’re hopeful that he will enhance what we’re doing here in Oklahoma City. I think that he’ll have an impact both on the floor (and) also in the collective development of our team and our roster.
“We’re excited to have Derek Fisher.”
Of course, many people are still processing the surprising news that the Los Angeles Lakers traded Fisher to the Houston Rockets. The move represented a piece of a puzzle that paved the way to landing guard Ramon Sessions.
“It’s hard to put into words what he’s meant to this organization,” said Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak after the Fisher trade. “We felt like we needed more quickness and more speed in the backcourt. There’s nobody we would trust with an open shot more than Derek Fisher, but we felt from a defensive point of view, and maybe giving us speed and quickness on the offensive end, we felt that Ramon would be the person.”
Multiple teams were interested in Fisher after Houston bought out his contract, but Fisher – suddenly an unrestricted free agent – was keen on landing with a contending team.
“Considering I had the opportunity to basically choose the best situation and the right fit, there was no doubt, after speaking with several teams, that this was the best place and the best fit,” said Fisher about the Thunder, a team who currently leads the Western Conference with a record of 35-12.
“The circumstances that surround me being available to come here are rare, but also what’s rare is what’s going on here with this team,” added Fisher. “There were specific things that I was looking for that would be the right fit for who I am and the right community and the right organization and the right players, the right coaches. And everything that I had observed from this particular team fit right into what I felt like was what I wanted to be attached to, what I wanted to be a part of. Being a part of success and winning, it’s not easy to let go. And so when you see an opportunity to be a part of something that is special and feel as though you can add to it, that was really what was the deciding factor in terms of me coming here.”
“He’s going to be an important piece to our team,” Brooks said. “His basketball IQ is at a high level. He’s been through a lot of incredible games and series and championships. He has winner all over his DNA. You can never have enough winners in your locker room and we have a locker room full of them.”
A real bonus is how 15-year NBA veteran Fisher can influence a still-developing Westbrook, though Brooks said: “He’s not just here to help our point guards or Russell (Westbrook); he’s here to help our entire team.”
Once again, Presti found a respected, solid guy who fits the Thunder mold.
Fisher is a proven winner and leader with 209 playoff games under his belt (ranked fourth all-time), five championship rings and too many clutch shots to count. Not to mention the fact he’s played over twelve years alongside one the best players to ever step on court in Kobe Bryant.
Bryant wasn’t surprised to hear Fisher landed in Oklahoma City; other Lakers weighed in as well.
“I expected that,” Bryant told Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “The Thunder needed him, in terms of having a backup point guard who brings a lot of stability and obviously veteran leadership and an ability to make big shots. I could see that coming.”
“I’m happy for him because a really good team picked him up; they’re obviously first in the West right now,” Pau Gasol said. “I think Oklahoma got better, which is not good news for us.”
“I think it’s perfect,” declared Andrew Bynum. “I would have done something similar, I think, given the same situation.”
It’s been over one week since the Lakers unexpectedly traded Fisher; many people are curious to hear Fisher’s take on it, but he’s not saying much right now.
“I was surprised by it,” conceded Fisher. “But since then, I’ve very much realized that it’s not so much about what went wrong and why it happened, but more so where I’m going next and the next chapter of my life. At the right time, I’ll be able to make statements and say things related to the Lakers and my teammates and guys that I used to play with.”
It will be adjustment for Fisher who has appeared in the Lakers’ starting lineup since the 2007-08 season. In these past 371 games, he’s averaged nearly 28 minutes playing time per game. In Oklahoma City, he will come off the bench behind Westbrook and probably log significantly fewer minutes.
This means rookie Reggie Jackson’s role – which expanded when Eric Maynor was ruled out for the season in January – has just changed.
“As a leader, which can happen from the bench, can happen from the locker room; but I’m a basketball player so it can also happen on the court. So I’m just looking to be as helpful as I possibly can to every player on this team. I’m not here to take anything away from anyone,” said Fisher.
Brooks spelled it out as far as Jackson’s suddenly-diminished role.
“That’s the art of coaching. If you’re about the team, you have to accept that. Obviously Reggie will have an immediate impact.”
“Every team that I’ve been on, I’ve always felt like from a leadership standpoint my role is to help everyone,” Fisher said. “Obviously playing the point guard position, those are the guys I connect with the most. So whether it’s Russell or Royal (Ivey) or Reggie or whoever it is, I’m here to help assist. I’m not here to try to tell someone how to play.
“These guys are pretty good without me. I’m just here to offer nuggets of wisdom, advice, my experience and the things that I’ve been through.”
“He’s just a guy who’s been through it all, won championships, played with some of the greatest players to ever play this game,” noted new teammate Kevin Durant. “I’m glad he’s here.
“If he comes in and brings us 15 or 20 minutes as a backup point guard, it’s really key for us,” Durant added. “Just running the team. That’s what we need, a veteran presence. In our second group, he’s really going to help out James (Harden), Nick (Collison), Nazr (Mohammed).”
Fisher understands his role with the Thunder. It’s not about changing the game; it’s more about steadying the game. He brings experience and wisdom to a young team that seems destined for a deep postseason run.
Believe it or not, Brooks played against Fisher back in the day.
“At that time, he played and the league didn’t know I retired six years earlier,” laughed Brooks. “But I stole money for six more years. I remember watching him play when I went against him; it’s probably embarrassing what he did to me.”
Yes, Fisher is 37 years old. He almost views it as a challenge to prove he can still contribute at a high level. He chose number 37 for his Thunder jersey to send a message to the doubters who delight in drawing negative attention to his age.
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