DALLAS – Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle spoke with such reverence about his starting point guard that he must have momentarily forgotten that Jason Kidd plays for the New York Knicks.
“Look at the plus-minus, look at the wins. It all factors in somehow,” Carlisle said. “There are some guys in this league whose contributions are impossible to quantify with statistics. A guy with five or six rings and physical toughness and timely shot-making history, all that stuff helps you, helps you. It doesn’t just help your point guard position, it helps the whole program.”
OK, so the “five or six rings” gave it away. The 38-year-old Derek Fisher won’t surpass the 39-year-old Kidd in many categories once these two enduring geezers finally hang it up, but Fisher does own five championship rings playing alongside Kobe Bryant to Kidd’s one with Carlisle two seasons ago.
While Kidd has pushed the Knicks to the top of the Eastern Conference, Fisher was at home waiting for a phone call, and he finally got it from a reeling Mavs team with a roster full of new faces, no Dirk Nowitzki (who hopes to begin practicing in a week or so) and desperate for leadership at the point.
Fisher arrived two weeks ago and immediately took over the starting job from Darren Collison. The young guard wasn’t happy about the demotion, but who can argue with the results?
Monday’s night’s 119-96 rout of the Sacramento Kings was Dallas’ third consecutive victory and fourth in five games, its best stretch since Collison was so impressive in opening the season 4-1.
Fisher’s stats have not been mind-blowing. He’s averaged 7.4 points on 37 percent shooting, and 3.6 assists in 25.2 minutes a game. But, he’s provided the rudder they lacked, delivering stability and calm to the position, and perhaps even a bit of a fire under the fourth-year Collison, who’s with his third team.
Benched after the Mavs’ 7-7 start, which then slipped to 7-9 before Fisher arrived on the scene, Collison has been red-hot during the win streak, averaging 14.3 points on 54.2 percent shooting (13-for-24) and 3.0 assists. And he’s played 30, 32 and 27 minutes in the last three games, more than Fisher in each.
So what has Carlisle discovered about his team over the last five games?
“We found some toughness, we found some grit,” he said. “We found Derek Fisher.”
And maybe some of that new-found toughness explains the play Carlisle was most appreciative of in Collison’s 7-for-9 shooting performance (15 points) against the Kings — a rare charge drawn on Marcus Thornton in the fourth quarter.
Carlisle has pleaded with his team to stand their ground on the defensive end, but with only limited results.
“Coming into [Monday], we had 13 charges in 20 games,” Carlisle said. “We had two tonight. We talked about it in the morning that we’ve got to be stepping up and we cannot continue to allow people to walk to the basket on us like they did in the first half of the Houston game. Dahntay [Jones] had one in the first half and Collison had one in the second half.
“[Vince Carter] and Dahntay Jones have the most [charges]. And now Collison is in third place because he has two.”
It’s one more than Collison had before, and each step he takes has to be considered progress.