DALLAS – Derek Fisher certainly didn’t want the new collective bargaining agreement, the one he served as a key architect as the players union president, to effectively, and ironically, push him out the door for good.
As the new CBA last summer forced franchises to be more mindful of obeying the salary cap, many aging veterans such as Fisher, 38, were left waiting for the phone call that would extend their careers.
“I think it’s a combination of a little bit of all those things,” Fisher said Friday. “It’s perception of what I can and can’t do, it’s the collective bargaining agreement and salary cap and luxury tax. It’s where the team feels that where they are in terms of what they need, and then ultimately where I was, in terms of what I felt like was the best situation to be in.”
The call officially came this week from a Dallas Mavericks team needing a rescue at point guard.
Fisher certainly seems to enjoy being back in the NBA limelight — engaging the media for more than 20 minutes — and in a role that certainly appears to be that as the Mavs’ new starting point guard. For Dallas fans, it’s almost unthinkable.
A tag-team dream of Deron Williams and Kidd burst in July and the Mavs moved quickly to trade for youngster Darren Collison. His inconsistent play at both ends led to a benching Tuesday night and appears to have cost him his starting job as the Mavs look to snap a three-game skid Saturday night at home against the Detroit Pistons.
“He’s probably going to be our starting point guard,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Fisher. “And we got a great situation with him and Collison because we got two really good players there and I see the real possibility that those guys could play together some, too.”
Fisher completed his first workout with his new team on Friday — proof being a painful elbow to the nose by a player he wouldn’t name. As unlikely as this marriage might be for the Mavs, same goes for Fisher, the beloved five-time champion with the Lakers the club traded to Houston last March. The Rockets waived him and the youthful Oklahoma City Thunder signed the veteran, utilizing him as a key reserve all the way to the Finals.
Employed again, Fisher has the Finals back on his mind, one of the reasons he said he chose to wear No. 6 in Dallas. The No. 2 he wore all those year with the Lakers, Fisher was told by an equipment manager, was off-limits.
That’s Kidd’s former number during his second run in Dallas, which included the 2011 title, and the one owner Mark Cuban has said he’s in no hurry to hang in the rafters after Kidd backtracked on a deal to stay in Dallas and instead fled to New York.
“I play to win, so part of it is wanting another championship ring,” Fisher said. “That’s not something that, obviously today, we’ve put ourselves in position to do. But I just wanted a reminder as to not just singularly why I’m here, but that’s a big reason why I’m still playing, is to win.”
Ring No. 6 for Fisher won’t come easily in Dallas. Fisher is the 11th new face to come in since the start of training camp with Delonte West, Eddy Curry and Troy Murphy all having come and gone. Dirk Nowitzki remains sidelined until perhaps mid-December and the team is 7-9 as it begins a brutal stretch of schedule.
While playing without Nowitzki, terrible rebounding and porous defense have all been culprits of poor play, Dallas has not received the stability and reliability needed at the point guard position when under critical moments of duress.
“To see somebody come in and be more poised at it and learn how to really control the tempo of the game,” veteran Shawn Marion said of bringing in Fisher. “You’ve got to know when you come down and you get two turnovers in a row, you’ve got to come down and get your ass into a play. There’s no [messing] around trying to get a third or fourth turnover. You’ve got to know that. That’s a thing a veteran point guard knows and recognizes.”
Marion was referencing the fatal fourth quarter Tuesday in Philadelphia. Dallas had a two-point lead when Collison committed consecutive turnovers. Four more in a row followed and the 76ers went on a 12-0 run.
That’s Fisher’s job now — steady the ship while showing Collison how.
“Part of being in this business, you’re going to have those stretches where things don’t go so well,” Fisher said. “Those guys that are able to weather those storms and those setbacks and those adversities, and come back and continue to grind and push and be the player they can be, that’s what makes you who you are. That’s what creates champions.”