He’s spent the 13 of his 16 NBA seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, but Wednesday, Derek Fisher has been welcomed by a new team.
Fisher is now a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the rest of the season, the team announced. Forward Ryan Reid has been waived to make room for Fisher.
As to why the Thunder over other teams that courted him, Fisher said it wasn’t a tough decision.
“The team itself, which I’ve always had a lot of respect for, plays hard, plays with energy every night and even with a relatively young basketball team is only focused on one thing and that’s winning and to be successful,” he said. “It was very difficult to not see myself as a person that could come in and help add to a situation that was already special.”
Thunder general manager Sam Presti confirmed Fisher’s deal is for the remainder of the 2011-12 season and cited both his on court and off court ability as to the reason he was a fit.
Fisher is available to play tonight against the Clippers.
“It’s not often an opportunity like this comes about at this point of the season,” Presti said. “We really like the group that we have and have a lot of confidence in it, but when this really started to materialize it was something we had to pursue.”
Fisher, who won five championships with the Lakers, cited a number of different reasons he picked Oklahoma City.
“After getting permission from the Rockets to speak with teams about the possibility of moving on, once we were able to complete the buyout, there were specific things I was looking for that would be the right fit for who I am,” he said. “And the right community, the right organization, the right players, the right coaches and everything that I had observed about this team fit right into what I felt like what I wanted to be attached to, what I wanted to be a part of.”
“As a leader, which can happen from the bench, can happen from the locker room, but I’m a basketball player so it also can happen from the court,” he said. “So I’m just looking to be as helpful as I possibly can to every player on this team. I’m not here to take anything away from anyone. I’m here to only add and support and assist and I feel it’s a great process that’s already been established with this team.”
Fisher though will take something away and that’s the backup point guard role from rookie Reggie Jackson. Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Fisher will be Oklahoma City’s backup point guard behind starter Russell Westbrook, putting rookie Jackson on the bench.
“It’s the art of coaching,” Brooks said. “You have to understand that I coach fair and coach honestly. I’m not afraid to have tough conversations.”
Brooks also said Fisher and Westbrook will play some together.
Presti said the Thunder liked Fisher not just for what he could provide on the floor, but the intangibles he possesses off it. Some of those likely including mentoring young point guards Westbrook and jackson.
“Every team that I’ve been on I’ve always felt like from a leadership standpoint my role is to help everyone,” Fisher said. “Obviously playing the point guard position, those are the guys I connect with the most. So whether it’s Russell or Royal or Reggie, I’m here to help and assist. I’m not here to tell anyone how to play. These guys are already pretty good without me. But I’m just here to offer nuggets of wisdom, advice, my experience, things I’ve been through. But also when Coach Brooks decides there’s the right time to get on the floor and play minutes, I have to be effective and play good minutes. I plan to help in every way I can.”
Fisher was asked to discuss his exit from the Lakers, but politely declined, instead saying he’ll address that at a later time, but his focus right now is his new team and the rest of this season.
“I was surprised by it, but since then I’ve very much realized it’s not about what went wrong and why it happened, but more so where I’m going next and the next chapter in my life,” Fisher said. “At the right time, I’ll be able to make statements and say things related to the Lakers and my teammates and guys that I used to play with, but right now for me, I’m excited about this team and the potential they have and what it is I can bring to something that’s already pretty good.”
Fisher said he will wear No. 37. As to why, “Because that’s how old I am, I guess.”
As for making a debut in a new city, with a new franchise, wearing a new jersey number, Brooks said it shouldn’t be too tough.
“I don’t know if he’s ready for this, but he’ll be getting an 18,000-person hug.”