I can’t remember the last time a 37-year-old point guard shooting 32 percent from the beyond the arc, with a PER so miniscule he looks down at Samardo Samuels, Vladimir Radmanovic and John Salmons, was being recruited as heavily as Jesus in He Got Game. Buffy and Suzie haven’t been offered yet – at least to my knowledge – but they’re putting everything else on the table. Everyone wants a piece of Derek Fisher, and the ones pushing the hardest all happen to have a larger stake in this game. Chicago. Oklahoma City. Miami. You might as well roll out the Vegas odds and take bets on where the former Laker will end up because he damn sure isn’t going to New Orleans.
Blindsided by a deal to Houston at the buzzer of the trade deadline, Fisher is in his Brett Favre stage: teams want him, but they don’t really want him. He’s a great person to have on your squad, but he’s not really that great. He’s like Cocoa Puffs. Good in theory; Average in taste (Cocoa Krispies all day).
Starting and playing nearly 30 minutes a night in Los Angeles wasn’t working. But if someone signs Fisher to give him 15-20 minutes of PT a game as a backup, I think he can make some noise. The Rockets formally released him earlier this week before he even had a chance to suit up in Houston, and now he’s taking calls from teams around the league.
He was officially placed on waivers at around 6 p.m. last night and over the next 48 hours teams under the salary cap can claim him.
But besides that, here are the five best destinations for Mr. .4.
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5. L.A. CLIPPERS
It’d make sense wouldn’t it? They could use another veteran, another voice in the locker room. Most of all, it’d be a great way to tell the Lakers to go f— themselves, especially if the crosstown rivals were to meet up in the first round of the playoffs.
But the Clippers are intent on moving forward with what they have: Chris Paul, Mo “Mr. Regular Season” Williams and some spare parts someone left stranded on the side of the road. L.A.’s stepchild can’t defend, and they can’t shoot free throws. Call me dumb, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to work out in the playoffs. I can already give you the end result for the Clippers this season: A matchup in the first round without homecourt advantage…they give us a ton of highlights, lots of dunks and lobs…one PHENOMENAL game from CP3 and Blake Griffin…and too many mistakes will send them home in six games.
It’s not like Fisher would change that. He can’t defend either. But at least he can make free throws and at least he has about 3/5’s of the Robert Horry gene in him.
Fisher might express interest in playing for the one coach in the world who could turn him into a defensive beast. But the Bulls aren’t interested, or at least aren’t interested enough to shift priorities from obtaining another big man.
With Derrick Rose, C.J. Watson and even John Lucas III all in the Windy City, there’s not much room as is. Chicago’s two backup point guards both have a PER above the league average and both are younger and more dynamic. But if I was Chicago, I’d still take a look at the old man. They could use a calming, fourth quarter voice because we all know what happened in the fourth quarters of their Eastern Conference Finals losses against Miami last year. Call me stupid, but I’d rather have Fisher playing a few minutes in a big, road playoff game than Watson or Lucas.
3. SAN ANTONIO
I never thought I’d see the day when a team would be going for Patty Mills instead of Derek Fisher. The Spurs are still the Spurs correct? They haven’t been infested with The Walking Dead have they? This whole “get younger, more athletic” thing is great. It’s worked out for them, most especially with Kawhi Leonard. But Patty Mills has as much of a chance as anyone on the Charlotte Bobcats of contributing something in the playoffs. That is, none.
Alas, it seems that’s who the Spurs want to backup Tony Parker, the guy more known for his accent and flipping out on Blazer benches during his time in the NBA. But who am I to question Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford? I do know Fisher would fit right in on this team and give San Antonio solid minutes off the bench in the playoffs. Defensively? The Spurs are just No. 17 in defensive efficiency as it is so what’s one more cone for opposing guards to dribble through?
For me, it just comes down to this: San Antonio has realistically, one, maybe two more runs at this before Tim Duncan jumps in a pool for good and Manu Ginobili retires with no hair. Patty Mills isn’t a bad player, but Fisher fits. Plus, being that San Antonio always brings out the best in everyone (Danny Green? Matt Bonner? Gary Neal?), I’d expect him to start banging triples like Steve Kerr in Game 6 of the 2003 West Finals the moment he’d put on a Spur uniform.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Heat are hot on Fisher’s heels. They should be. Mario Chalmers might be shooting 43 percent from deep, and might have sneaky quick hands on defense. But he’s also prone to making stupid mistakes. I once saw the dude commit four turnovers on four consecutive possessions. How you do that playing with two of the best players in the world, I have no idea.
But his backup, Norris Cole, makes Chalmers look as steady as an AZ album. Cole can’t shoot (barely 30 percent from the arc), and averages nearly two giveaways a game in just 20 minutes. Do you think the Big Three trust him to come through in the playoffs? I doubt it. Fisher might be decaying, but he can still pull a rabbit out of a hat every once in a while in the fourth quarter.
There are only a few in the league with the gall to challenge LeBron, and coaches who demand that kind of respect are even fewer. Mike Brown wasn’t one of them. Erik Spoelstra, the capable statistician that he is, doesn’t seem like one either. Fisher, based on his championships, big-money shots and time spent in the glow of Hollywood, could be that guy. He knows Kobe. LeBron knows that. Put two and two together.
You’re going to tell me a word here or there about big-game balls won’t help LeBron? Fisher is basically the only guy in the league Kobe will pass to in the final minute of a close game (Okay, we’ll give him a little more credit than that. Add Pau Gasol and I guess Andrew Bynum to that list.). He has a few secrets he can share with James.
1. OKLAHOMA CITY
Marc Stein reports Miami and Oklahoma City have emerged as the favorites to land Fisher. But if I’m Fisher, I’m heading out to meet with Sam Presti and signing on the dotted line ASAP. No team needs him more. No team has more to gain or a better cast of characters to surround him with. No one can cover his shortcomings better. And no one gives him a better chance at matching up again with the Lakers.
Since Eric Maynor went down for the year, the Thunder’s second unit has been headlined by rookie Reggie Jackson. With a PER of 9.56, he’s almost as bad in that regard as Fisher, and I honestly can remember seeing Jackson make a play all season. OKC has faith he’ll develop, but why not bring in Fisher for now seeing as you have everything to make him feel comfortable (athletes on the wings to help him when he inevitably gets beat) and wanted (someone to run the offense in the fourth quarter so Russell Westbrook can be free to indulge himself).
The Lakers might fancy themselves a West contender now, but honestly, there’s no way they beat OKC in a playoff series. It ain’t happening, especially when you think about the Thunder’s almost comically crazy fans in one of the best atmospheres in the NBA, and the Lakers pure resistance to giving even a half-ass effort on the road. I’m sure Fisher is licking his lips at the chance to beat the guys who drove the knife into his back.
Where should Fisher play?
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