Derek Fisher thought that his days as a starter were over.
Then he signed with the struggling Dallas Mavericks last Thursday, a move that catapulted the 38-year-old veteran point guard into a role typically reserved for players about a decade younger.
“It’s amazing,” he said. "...As far as an opportunity to start in this business, I felt like that may have gone as far as being an opportunity.”
The Lakers traded Fisher to Houston last March and he eventually landed in Oklahoma City, where he averaged only 20.4 minutes a game, his lowest average since his rookie year in 1996-97.
Things will be awfully different in Dallas this season, and not just because he’ll see an increase in playing time.
Fisher, who has won five NBA championships with the Lakers, went from playing for a Thunder team that reached the Finals last season to a Mavericks team that is currently struggling just to win a game. The Mavericks have an 8-10 record and are floundering without an injured Dirk Nowitzki.
Fisher, who is admired by former teammates for his basketball savvy and his strong locker room presence, thinks that he can help the Mavs.
“Just looking forward to trying to be as helpful as possible with this team,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys, but we have some potential.”
It’s quite a project -- and an opportunity -- for Fisher. He has won his rings and made his money. The question is: What keeps him coming back for more?
“Just the pure love and passion for the game,” he said. “I love the work, the time, the self-discipline that’s required to be at your best.”
When asked if it’s a little awkward to play under Dallas owner Mark Cuban, who was very vocal against the Lakers when Fisher represented the purple and gold, Fisher laughed.
“He didn’t hold all of the big shots I’ve hit against him against me,” Fisher said. “So I won’t hold anything from the past against him.”