OKLAHOMA CITY — Derek Fisher had just finished buttoning his dress shirt at his locker when he shot a sideways glance at a reporter from Los Angeles.
“Kings win?” the Oklahoma City Thunder guard asked late Wednesday night.
Informed they had lost to the New Jersey Devils, the former longtime Laker sighed.
“So, Game 5 in L.A.?” Fisher inquired hopefully.
“Back to New Jersey,” responded a few reporters.
It’s OK. Things are still looking good, for Fisher and for the Kings.
The NBA and NHL playoffs could each be an L.A. story between a possible first title for the Kings and a sixth for Fisher, which would give the onetime Angeleno one more than a certain former teammate.
Fisher said he had not heard from Kobe Bryant immediately after Oklahoma City’s 107-99 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, which clinched the Thunder’s first NBA Finals appearance since it relocated from Seattle four years ago.
He almost certainly has by now.
“I haven’t checked my phone yet,” Fisher said. “It could be tonight. We’ll talk. We’ve spoken in the last few days. We’ll see.”
Fisher had already received a shout-out on Twitter from Lakers forward Metta World Peace following Fisher’s clutch play Wednesday. He played all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter alongside Oklahoma City stars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, making a three-point shot from the corner to give the Thunder a 96-91 lead with 4 minutes 35 seconds remaining.
“Fisher….. Nothing new… ” World Peace tweeted. “Totally not surprised… 6 ring fisher!!!!!!!! Do it do it!!!! Wow!!!!!”
Fisher made two of three shots in the fourth quarter, including a jumper he banked in with 1:55 to go to extend Oklahoma City’s advantage to 103-97. He also had a steal earlier in the quarter and finished the game with nine points.
It’s a common occurrence for someone whose late-game play has become legendary.
“He’s been there 20 times,” Harden said. “He knows how to handle those situations. Creating big shots, defensive plays, plays hard. He just keeps us calm. It’s great to have him.”
Fisher, 37, had been a cherished presence for most of his 12 1/2 seasons with the Lakers before the team decided to go younger at the trading deadline. The Lakers acquired point guard Ramon Sessions from Cleveland in March before dealing Fisher and a first-round draft pick to Houston for forward Jordan Hill. Fisher subsequently negotiated a buyout of his contract, allowing him to sign with the Thunder.
He’s been a steadying presence for a team filled with 22- and 23-year-olds, particularly in the playoffs.
“Derek, he helps us in many ways and it’s just not on the floor,” Oklahoma City Coach Scott Brooks said. “It’s in the locker room, talking to him. The thing I love about him, I tell everybody, is his toughness and he’s a winner, and you can never have enough of those guys on your team.”
Now it’s on to an even bigger stage, starting in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday in Oklahoma City against either the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat.
Fisher has already made it two rounds farther than his former teammates. Not that it provides any joy.
“I don’t ever gain any happiness from seeing people that I was close to or worked with for a long time not be successful,” Fisher said. “So it’s not about a one-up thing on them. It’s really more just about being thankful to be where I am and have the opportunity that I have here.”
He will also be rooting for the Kings and right wing Dustin Brown, one of his friends on the team. There may be a parade down Figueroa that the Fisher King would like to take part in after all.