As a last minute scratch, Darren Collison missed the game against the Chicago Bulls due to a sprained right middle finger. That led to Dominique Jones getting his second consecutive start at the point guard position. It is safe to say that the point guard situation has gotten desperate for the Mavericks. It’s gotten to the point where Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle announced shortly after the loss to the Bulls that Derek Fisher would be joining the team. The news was made official on Thursday afternoon. ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst was the first to report that Derek Fisher would likely make a decision on his new team by Thursday.
“I think (Fisher) can really help our situation with experience, defensively and really all areas of the game,” Carlisle told reporters after the loss to Chicago. “Right now, the point guard position is a challenge for us and I think Derek can help us.” To make room for Fisher on the roster, the Mavericks released Troy Murphy. Fisher (6-1, 210) is a five-time NBA World Champion and has played in 1,173 games (722 starts) with the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State, Utah and Oklahoma City. At age 38, he holds career averages of 8.6 points, 3.1 assists, 2.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 26.2 minutes per game. Fisher was originally the 24th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers and went on to win five World Championships in Los Angeles (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010). He also served as President of the NBA Players Association from 2006-2012.
Fisher has played in all 82 regular season games in nine of his 16 NBA seasons. He averaged 5.6 points and 2.7 assists in 63 games with the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder last season. His role changed as he become more of an on the floor mentor in the Thunder’s playoff run, averaging 6.3 points and 22 minutes per game. This will be his 17th season.
A five-time NBA champion, Fisher joins a roster that is in dire need of a calming influence. Collison has been hot and cold in his early run as a Maverick. Fisher has been widely regarded as a leader and calming influence in any locker room he’s been in. In addition, he is willing to take and, more importantly, make big shots. He might not be as talented as he was years ago, but Fisher does provide value to the team. The Mavericks wouldn’t bother trying to sign him if that wasn’t the case. “I want to be clear. I don’t see (Fisher) as a cure-all to all of the challenges that we have as a team, but a guy with that kind of experience can help,” Carlisle continued. The experience Carlisle speaks of is the 229 postseason games Fisher has participated in.
Despite sitting out the game against the Bulls, Collison told reporters that he was eager to see Fisher come on board. “I think his leadership will help,” Collison said. “I mean, he’s a veteran player that’s been around the league for a very, very long time.” Collison is anticipating learning a lot from the newest Maverick. “I think he’s going to help me grow into the player I want to be and he’s going to help this team grow,” Collison said.
The Mavericks will be hoping they found a hybrid of Jason Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson. Confused? Let me explain. Jason Kidd was the brain of the offense during his time with the Mavericks. Fisher has shown over the years he has the ability to be the general on the floor for a playoff contender. While he doesn’t have the savvy that Kidd had when he was with the Mavericks, Fisher can definitely hold his own in the intelligence department. That is something the Mavericks have been lacking with their careless turnovers. As for Stevenson, Fisher doesn’t have the neck tattoos, he could fill a role that Stevenson had during the 2010-11 season. Stevenson had occasions where he would start games but rarely see heavy minutes. Carlisle likes to start players who:
A) Elite talent
B) Set the tone in terms of defense or stability
Many people read into who is starting games, but Carlisle really doesn’t buy into that perspective. That was the case with Steven. Stevenson played 72 games for the Mavericks in 2010-11 and started 54 of them. Stevenson only averaged 18.9 minutes/game as a starter. That kind of workload is definitely on the low end for a starter. Stevenson set the tone in terms of spacing the floor with his range and his defense. It appears that Carlisle envisions Fisher as the starting point guard, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. “I loved the way (Collison) played in Philly,” said Carlisle. “I think that’s a great role for him right now (coming off the bench). I think Fisher can help us as a starter. This is a great opportunity for Darren to develop into a true starting point guard in this league.
“I really like Darren Collison as a player, and I like him even better as a person. But putting him in a position to be the starter on this team right now isn’t fair to him. With Derek coming in, it’s a great opportunity for Darren to learn from one of the greatest winners in the history of the game.”
Whether Fisher can mentor Collison into a position where Collison can thrive as a starting point guard later down the road remains to be seen. It is a certainty that Fisher stunts the growth of Dominique Jones and Roddy Beaubois, but the Mavericks are trying to do everything in their power to try to stem the tide as the team continues to wait for Dirk Nowitzki’s return. There’s going to be a fine line the Mavericks have to avoid crossing with Fisher. At his advanced age, the Mavericks can’t rely too heavily on Fisher in terms of minutes. If they do, their plan will backfire. If they play their cards right and find that proper balance, it could be a success that gets the team back on track. Fisher might not be the player he was during his time when he was winning championships with the Lakers. That being said, he brings assets to the table that the Mavericks desperately need. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Let’s just hope the Mavericks come out on the better end of the draw when it comes to acquiring former Lakers. Recent history (Murphy, Lamar Odom) has them 0-for-2.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.