Thunder coach Scott Brooks suggests he’d like Derek Fisher back
The path the Oklahoma City Thunder has taken in the last three seasons convinces Coach Scott Brooks that they’re putting down the necessary foundation for an NBA championship.
They progressed from a first-round exit against the Lakers in the 2010 NBA playoffs to the Western Conference Finals the following year against the Dallas Mavericks.
The Thunder then made its first NBA Finals appearance last season and fell to the Miami Heat.
In an hourlong meeting Tuesday night at the Pelican Hill Golf Club with a handful of the news media, Brooks also expressed optimism about his team heading into the 2012-13 season. The Thunder boasts a prolific scorer (Kevin Durant), a speedy point guard (Russell Westbrook), a physical frontline (Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins) and a dependable reserve (James Harden).
Still, if Brooks had his druthers, the Thunder would re-sign former Laker Derek Fisher.
Was there any hope of keeping the free-agent guard?
“There still is,” Brooks said. “Everything is still fluid.”
Nonetheless, Fisher remains unsigned. I’ve been told the Los Angeles resident routinely practiced at both the Lakers and Clippers practice facilities this offseason. Meanwhile, the Oklahoman’s John Rohde reported the Thunder would only re-sign Fisher at the veteran’s minimum. Sports illustrated’s Sam Amick quoted an unnamed source saying Fisher’s chances of joining the Thunder are “remote” since the team already features three point guards in Russell Westbrook, Eric Maynor and Reggie Jackson. Brooks also mentioned in general terms that he leaves personnel decisions to Thunder General Manager Sam Presti.
Still, Brooks gushed plenty about Fisher’s four-month stint with the Thunder. Even though Fisher averaged a career-low 4.9 points on 34.3% shooting through 20 regular-season games with the Thunder, Brooks marveled at how the 38-year-old’s playoff experience and leadership boosted an otherwise youthful team. Laker fans have always remained split on a similar role he provided when he helped the Purple & Gold to five NBA titles.
“Derek Fisher, just being around him, I can tell why he’s loved by so many people and why the Lakers won so many championships,” Brooks said. “He puts everything he has into every possession, every practice and every game. In our practices, he is 37 and he did everything we asked, every drill and every possession. He practices every day. It was great. I don’t think we could’ve gone as far as we did without him. I thought he was terrific and I love him. I really have a lot of respect for him.”
The Lakers traded Fisher and a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for Jordan Hill. Despite Fisher’s strong ties to the Lakers, they traded him to relieve themselves of his $3.4-million salary for next season and to assuage concerns he wouldn’t accept a demotion after acquiring a younger and faster point guard in Ramon Sessions. Fisher publicly maintained he would’ve made any necessary sacrifices the Lakers would’ve asked of him.
Nonetheless, Fisher secured a buyout from Houston so he could join a contender.
“I have so much respect for Fish. I heard all of the stories in the past 16 or 17 years and every one of them is true,” Brooks said. “I’ve been with him for four months. That guy is as good as it gets. He has integrity. He’s humble. He’s a professional. He’s a winner. You can look back at all the Laker great teams. They all had great players, but you look back at some of the peripheral players and intangible players, those are the players that really get you over the top.”
Whether the Thunder organization still feels Fisher holds that value may be unlikely considering he still stands as a free agent. Regardless, it’s clear that Brooks stands in Fisher’s corner.
“He knows how to play. He was terrific for us,” Brooks said. “I tell him all the time, ‘Derek, don’t get into coaching. Don’t get into sports.’ This guy is bigger than that. I always tease him, ‘Run Apple.’ You’re smart. You can lead. That guy is a leader. One day he could probably be the commissioner.”
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