"The Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder have emerged as the early leaders in the race to sign veteran guard Derek Fisher after he clears waivers on Wednesday, according to sources close to the situation.
With the Chicago Bulls needing another big man more than another guard and the San Antonio Spurs still hopeful that they can complete the signing of guard Patrick Mills by week's end, sources told ESPN.com that Miami and Oklahoma City are the current frontrunners to land Fisher, who was formally waived Monday night by the Houston Rockets."
To help facilitate his buyout, Fisher reportedly dropped a $3.4 million player option for next season, kissing goodbye a significant amount of money -- no level of performance the rest of the way earns him anywhere near that next season -- to play for a contender now. The trade may have been a necessary second step following the acquisition of Ramon Sessions, but nonetheless instantly created the possibility of Fisher joining a high-end team the Lakers could meet down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Bad as he's been on the floor (and he's been bad), if some of the Tweets and emails we've received are any indication, the idea of getting down to crunch time and seeing Fisher in the other team's uni makes a lot of fans nervous. Particularly given how motivated he'd be to stick it to Lakers management.
So with that in mind, I ask: Are you scared at all of Derek Fisher?
Obviously the Thunder represent a greater threat, if that's the right word, than Miami. With OKC, Fish would get two cracks at the Lakers before the end of the regular season, both coming at Staples, on March 29 then April 22. His new team would have a chance to impact the playoff fortunes of his former one even before the postseason started. And obviously the Lakers are more likely to see the Thunder in the playoffs than the Heat, a matchup with the latter by definition requiring a trip to the Finals.
Practically speaking, whether with OKC or Miami (or anyone else) it's very difficult to guess how much impact Fisher would have. How much would he play, and would he even be on the floor for those big crunch time minutes fans would worry about? This isn't baseball. Fisher can't be turned into the NBA's equivalent of a situational lefty, coming out of the bullpen for high leverage moments in the fourth quarter. I find it hard to believe Scott Brooks (or Erik Spoelstra) would significantly alter his late game rotation just to get Fisher on the floor.
If he did, generally speaking the prospect of facing a point guard shooting 38 percent from the floor and 32 percent from 3-point range with a PER under nine would be inviting, especially if it means a better player wouldn't be on the court. The same holds true in Miami.
The concern comes in the potential narrative.
It would be such an epic story if Fisher, cast off by the Lakers (discarded in the eyes of some) after years of successful service stuck a dagger in them during the postseason. Lakers fans know it can happen because they've seen Fisher do it. Maybe it's simply a question of Fisher providing that last bit of veteran leadership helping get the Thunder beyond the Western Conference Finals, perhaps at the expense of the Lakers.
I'd be willing to take my chances, because in the cold calculations of sports, it's always best to play against lesser opposition. Put bluntly, the reasons so many Lakers fans wanted him off the floor are exactly why they'd want him on the floor for an opponent. Moreover, I wonder as well how much impact he can have culturally on a team where he's new in the locker room, his gravitas lacks the same context as in L.A., and isn't seeing many minutes. When it's all said and done, I suspect he won't make a huge impact with either team.
But I understand the fear. If presented the opportunity to put Fisher on the floor against the Lakers and have him do something big, the basketball gods (with whom Fisher has always seemed to have a direct line of communication) might find it too tough to pass up.