After winning five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, Derek Fisher chose the West-leading Oklahoma City Thunder as the team where he wants to go for No. 6.
Fisher signed with the Thunder for the remainder of the season on Wednesday, not quite a week after he was traded to Houston by the Lakers and subsequently bought out of his contract instead of playing with the Rockets.
He picked jersey No. 37, the same as his age, and maintained his streak of consecutive games played by contributing five points in 19 minutes in a 114-95 win over the Clippers.
More importantly, he wants to continue his run of postseason success.
”Right now, they sit on top of the Western Conference and I’m just hopeful that the things that I do, the things that I’ve always brought to every team I’ve ever played on, can be the right mix to help these guys continue to do whatever it is that they’re already doing,” Fisher said before the game.
The Thunder lost their backup point guard, Eric Maynor, to a season-ending knee injury in January but hadn’t made any moves to address the position. All-Star Russell Westbrook had been taking on extra minutes as the starter, with rookie Reggie Jackson taking over as his backup.
Then Fisher became available when the Lakers decided to acquire Ramon Sessions from Cleveland and promote Steve Blake to the starter. Fisher had won five titles alongside Kobe Bryant in two separate stints with the Lakers, with stops in Utah and Golden State in between.
He had played 13 of his 16 NBA seasons with Los Angeles before getting dealt away at last week’s trade deadline.
”I think that I was surprised by it, 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,” Fisher said, declining to speak in depth about his divorce with the team until later.
Fisher figures to take over Jackson’s backup minutes, although coach Scott Brooks called the 2011 first-round draft pick one of the Thunder’s ”important pieces going forward.” Fisher has averaged 8.7 points and 3.1 assists during his career and has played in 209 playoff games in 13 trips to the postseason.
”He has winner all over his DNA,” Brooks said. ”You can never have enough winners in your locker room, and we have a locker room full of them. He just gives us one more winner.”
Fisher played with the Lakers when they knocked Oklahoma City out in the first round of the 2010 playoffs on their way to a second straight championship. He said he’s always respected the team because he’s observed that the players play with energy every single game.
That approach was reinforced when he met with general manager Sam Presti while he was going through the process of clearing waivers and becoming a free agent.
”It’s very clear that there’s one common goal, and that’s to maximize the abilities of every player on the team and try to bring, at some point, a championship to Oklahoma City,” Fisher said.
Oklahoma City made room for Fisher by waiving forward Ryan Reid, a second-round pick in 2010 who had played in only five games over the past season and a half.
”He’s got great poise, he’s got a great basketball IQ, great recognition on both ends of the floor,” Presti said of Fisher. ”He understands the league, he’s a well-regarded corner shooter and someone that we feel like can settle you down and make plays for you throughout the body of the game.”
Presti praised Jackson and reserve Royal Ivey for filling Maynor’s minutes over the past two months well enough to give Oklahoma City the league’s third-best record, behind Miami and Chicago, heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
”We have a lot of confidence in the group that we have in place, obviously, to be where we are right now,” Presti said. ”We know we can improve. … We feel like Derek’s someone that can help enhance where we are currently.”
Two-time scoring champion Kevin Durant endorsed Fisher’s arrival even before he had officially signed and envisioned him as a mentor to the young team who’s still able to hit clutch shots and defend. He was hesitant to look forward and assess Fisher’s impact on the Thunder’s championship hopes.
”You can ask as many questions as you want, but it’s a little different if you go through it yourself,” Durant said. ”I’m just going to just try to pick his brain as much as I can about the game of basketball but at the same time, of course if I want to get to that goal, I’ll have to experience it myself.”