John E. Hoover: Thunder's pickup of Fisher not the answer, but a wise move
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
2/26/13 at 7:01 AM
Related Story: Derek Fisher's return to Thunder makes sense
Go to John E. Hoover's blogOriginal Print Headline: Fisher a safe add for OKC
No, Thunder fans, Derek Fisher most assuredly is not the answer.
Adding a 38-year-old, third-string point guard to the roster in late February does not put the Thunder ahead of San Antonio in the race toward June.
And Fisher's presence certainly won't solve any of OKC's considerable and ongoing matchup problems with Miami.
But given the makeup and direction of his team, general manager Sam Presti made a wise move on Monday, if only a safe one.
Bringing Fisher back is smart, an insurance policy for the NBA Playoffs.
The way backup point guard Reggie Jackson is playing lately, Fisher won't usurp valuable minutes from Jackson's development. Presti and coach Scott Brooks obviously thought so much of Jackson that Eric Maynor became disposable - in a friendly, Thunder kind of way, whereby they did him a huge favor by trading him to Portland.
Having a third point guard - particularly one familiar with Thunder methodology - is a necessity.
All-Star Russell Westbrook bounds through NBA arenas like an exploding popcorn kernel - that is, once he launches himself, who really knows where or how he's going to land? And if something happens to Jackson, or if he suffers a sudden lack of confidence or youthful slump, the Thunder needs an alternative.
After a short stay in Oklahoma City, Fisher was let go by the Thunder last offseason and picked up by Dallas. He played just nine games for the Mavs, hurt his knee and retired.
"We are excited to welcome Derek back to the Thunder organization," Presti said in a statement. "He contributed to our team in various ways last season, and we are looking forward to him joining us again."
So what's the difference, then, between Maynor and Fisher?
Experience. Big-game, big-shot, big-play experience.
From 2004 to 2011, Fisher was credited with five game-winning shots, including his buzzer-beater against San Antonio in the 2004 playoffs. That level of clutch isn't something a lot of backup point guards have delivered, and it gives Fisher instant credibility in the leadership department.
That, and Fisher has five NBA titles.
Teammates gravitate to that, learn from it, absorb it in settings fans and media never see, like the locker room, practices, road trips and team meetings.
In the playoffs, such qualities are amplified.
Last season, Fisher played 43 games for the Lakers before the Thunder acquired him for the final 20 games of the regular season.
He became a key player in OKC's run to the NBA Finals, averaging 22.3 minutes in the Thunder's 20 postseason games. With Maynor hurt and Jackson a rookie, Fisher's role as Westbrook's backup became a big deal.
Fisher is a career 40 percent shooter, which includes a .373 percentage from 3-point range. But in the playoffs last season for the Thunder, Fisher shot 41.5 percent from the floor (.375 on 3s). His career field goal percentage in the playoffs is .426, and his postseason career 3-point percentage is .400.
Fisher has proven over his previous 16 NBA seasons that he can elevate his game in the postseason. With an open roster spot after Maynor's trade, adding Fisher now makes perfect sense.
Jackson is a good player with an upward career path and a bright upside. But he's never hit a game-winning shot in the NBA. In fact, he's never hit a shot of any kind in the playoffs, because he's never played in a playoff game.
Don't expect Fisher to match up with Chris Paul or Tony Parker in the Western Conference playoffs. And no, he won't guard Dwyane Wade or LeBron James, should the Thunder get that far.
OKC could have used a strong inside presence, something they perhaps got when they added Ronnie Brewer at the trade deadline.
But Fisher - age, bad knee and all - is a risk-free commodity with proven returns.