NBA training camps are almost a month away, and there are still several players in the free agent pool that can make contributions to teams of all calibers. It would be impossible, however, to find one who claims the unmatched combination of experience and success as one, Derek Fisher. The big-shot-making, ice-blood having, five-time-champion is still available for teams to sign, and run through a Luis-Scola-screen near you. While Fisher’s value in production has been justifiably questioned over the past two or so seasons, he still brings traits that are highly coveted in the League today. His intangibles are what make Fisher’s presence special. The current president of the players union, D-Fish, as he’s so fondly known as, has been the epitome of a consummate professional, and a fearless underdog.
Fisher will undoubtedly garner interest from contending teams who have a need for backup point guards, along with feelers from younger teams looking to instill a professional and winning attitude in their franchise. When the Lakers swapped Fisher last trade deadline in a three-team deal netting them Jordan Hill, Fisher asked his new team, the Rockets, to buy out his contract and allow him to sign with a championship contending team. The Thunder were a perfect fit for Fisher. Uniquely, the Thunder were both a contending team looking to fill a backup role (due to Eric Maynor’s injury), and also a young franchise on the cusp of greatness, needing the presence of a veteran with a winning pedigree.
When his number was called, Fisher still held his own, playing key minutes for Head Coach Scott Brooks and the Thunder on their road to the Finals, even finishing playoff games for the young and relatively inexperienced franchise. The effect Fisher had on the Thunder in both the locker room and on the court shows that he still has what it takes to impact a basketball game and do good things. It was his ability to adapt to his new role in a completely new situation that accurately exemplifies the professional he is. No other 38 year old makes that transition as smoothly, let alone plays a hand in the Thunders appearance in the Finals.
Going into his 18th year, Fisher has already received interest from several teams, including some contending ones, and some younger franchises in rebuilding mode. The Cavaliers are a young team on the mend, searching for an identity, and have shown interest in Fisher. Fisher’s influence on franchise point guard Kyrie Irving, along with the rest of Cleveland’s youngsters, can prove to be an invaluable aid to Head Coach Byron Scott. He will no doubt be a positive presence, and tutor, to younger players on any team.
A team absent from his list of suitors, however, is the one that he started last season with, the Lakers. Mitch Kupchak has made no indications thus far about bringing back the Purple-and-Gold legend, and it seems rightfully so. The Lakers already have a steady backup up point guard for Steve Nash in Steve Blake, and like Fisher, both of those guys were both born in the 1970’s( OK, Blake was born in 1980, but you get the idea). Their growing bench will yield limited minutes for Fisher, something the veteran has been reluctant to sacrifice. But in their playoff exit at the hands of the Thunder last season, the Lakers could have benefited from Fishers veteran presence and calm, as it was mental and execution errors in key moments that lost them crucial games. Instead it was for the Thunder that he would make his marks on the game.
It would no doubt be special to watch D-Fish rejoin Kobe, and continue their collective chase for a sixth ring. Mount up with Pau for their third chip together . Also help Nash, a perennial Laker-killer, hold up his first title. You shouldn’t look to the Lakers for loyalty though (see: why Lamar Odom is on the Clippers Roster), nor should you expect Fisher to be completely over being traded. The NBA is a business after all. But for this one instance, it would be nice if business allowed us the pleasure of seeing Fisher retire a Laker.