This appears on ph.nba.com
A Fisher of Men
A Fisher of Men
by rick olivares pic by tony dejak/AP
On a recent episode of Hang Time Road Trip, former NBA player Rick Fox spent some time with his former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Derek Fisher who is now the head coach of the New York Knicks.
In that episode, Fox asked Fisher is he flashed his championship rings to the luckless Knicks. The rookie head coach said no and said that he first wanted to connect with the team “as people.”
Fisher said that it isn’t as simple as saying this is how to win because his Lakers teams did it this way en route to five Larry O’Brien Trophies. D-Fish is smart enough to know that it is a wholly different squad and organization from the one he played for. This isn’t like when Pat Riley flashed his championship rings to a then jewelry-less LeBron James and Chris Bosh in order to join Dwyane Wade over in South Beach.
First of all, Fish doesn’t need to do that. The day the Knicks brought back Phil Jackson to the fold as team president then that was all the glitterati that was needed. The Zen Master is a proven commodity; Fisher isn’t. Unless he is lining up jump shots off the double teams that routinely covered Kobe Bryant.
Instead, he is coaching a team that has not only underachieved but also massively disappointed.
Years ago, while Fisher was playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, I asked him if he could see himself coaching. He grinned then said it was a possibility. He could still see himself a part of them game in different capacities – a color analyst, a coach, and a commentator whatever!
“I love the game so much, man,” explained Fisher. “Its been good to me. I won’t deny that. So I should give back.”
Fisher played alongside Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook to name a few. While never a superstar, he was steady with career averages of 8.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.1 steals in 1,287 regular season games (he slightly hiked his numbers in the playoffs).
If the Knicks are thinking that Fisher is going to be a pushover then they have another thing coming. Following the opening day blowout loss to the Chicago Bulls, Fisher didn’t hesitate to juggle the starting lineup for the match against the Cleveland Cavaliers who were celebrating the return of LeBron James to Ohio.
He benched Samuel Dalembert, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tim Hardaway Jr. in favor of the unheralded Travis Wear, Jason Smith, and Quincy Acy. All three contributed mightily to the team’s 95-90 victory at the Quicken Loans Arena hushing the crowd of over 20,000.
Explained the Knicks’ head coach, “It’s just trusting the work that we put in, and making sure that these guys understand they’re not just on this team by accident. If we didn’t believe they could play at this level, they wouldn’t be here. Our management is showing a lot of trust in a lot of our guys, and as coaches we’re trying to make sure they understand that everybody has to be ready to play every night.”
By “work” the coach means the Triangle Offense that is largely unseen in these parts. In the win against Cleveland, the Knicks scored 10 baskets via the newly-installed offense. I’d say it’s a work in progress because the other 20 baskets scored from total of 30 assists came off the old fashioned route of one-on-one and kickouts (not to mention from fastbreaks).
When Fish said “being ready to play” it meant there are no sacred cows. You have to bust your butt for the 2014-15 New York Knicks.
So with the season barely a week old, Fisher’s Knicks are 2-1. The opening day embarrassment at the Garden notwithstanding, they have rebounded well.
It’s still early, way too early, to say how they will do or even finish. The three games have demonstrated their potential if they come to play. Yet at the same time, if they don’t, then those woeful days of seasons past could still be around the corner (witness the loss to the Bulls).
Let’s see if Derek can make fishers of these men, these Knicks.