What Exactly Are We To Make of the Mavericks' Derek Fisher Signing?
It has been a quiet week — game-wise, at least — for the Dallas Mavericks, as they've only played twice since my last post.
The results in those two games varied. On Wednesday night, they were summarily dismantled by the Chicago Bulls, and, on Saturday, they were able to pull out a 92-77 win over the Detroit Pistons despite yet another slow start.
Still, despite the slow game schedule, the organization has indeed kept busy of late — mostly because they've continued to tinker with their roster.
In a rather eyebrow-raising move this week, the Mavericks brought in free agent veteran Derek Fisher to take over for the promising, young Darren Collison as the team's starting point guard.
Granted, Collison's play of late has been sporadic — especially in the fourth quarter. Hell, his play late against the 76ers last week helped to swing the game in Philadelphia's favor.
Collison, you may recall, had similar issues in Indiana last season. As the season wore on, he lost his starting role with the Pacers to George Hill, who is less a true point guard and more of a combo-wing. It was simply the case of Frank Vogel, the Pacers' head coach, not trusting Collison.
Back in August, I emailed Tim Donahue from 8 Points, 9 Seconds as I was researching Collison's impact on the pace of a team for a post I was writing at the time. Donahue has followed the Pacers closely for some time and made several observations about Collison's play. Most important, he noted that Collison lacked much of a presence both on the court and in the locker room, and says that this led to him losing his starting position.
In Dallas, Collison has been assertive at times — but not consistently, which is what Rick Carlisle is looking for. It's what Carlisle had with Jason Kidd.
Still, despite his inconsistencies, Collison losing his starting job to Fisher is simply shocking. Before joining the Mavs last week, Fisher was out of the NBA. He was probably sitting at home, waiting for the phone to ring, hoping he would get a call from Just For Men so he could get a spot in a commercial.
When the call came, though, it was the Mavericks on the line.
Perhaps this isn't a huge surprise. When Fisher joined the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, Carlisle heaped praise on him, saying that he didn't “see any down side to” his addition to that team.
Carlisle has a point. Having a player with five NBA championships under his belt in the locker room does have a certain appeal to it. But when that player is 38 years old, a well-documented statue on defense and is called upon to start in a league that features the likes of Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook, is his signing not a stark admission that a team is trying to find itself? And what might they find in the end, anyway?
Fisher's first game as a Maverick came against the Pistons. In that game, he went 1-for-8 from the floor while scoring two points, gathering two rebounds, dishing out three assists, grabbing two steals and turning the ball over three times. Oh, and this is important: The one shot he was credited with making came on a goaltending violation. In other words? None of his shots found the bottom of the net in just over 24 minutes of play.
Meanwhile, Collison, in almost 27 minutes, totaled five points on 2-for-5 shooting, grabbed two rebounds, notched eight assists and grabbed a steal. And he did not turn the ball over. Not once.
These are not stellar numbers, no. But he was far more efficient than Fisher for the game.
Carlisle has said multiple times over the years that who starts a game for his team is not an issue to him; he simply wants his players to produce when they are called upon. In that regard, he considered Jason Terry to be the team's starting shooting guard despite the fact that JET came off the bench. Looking at the minutes that Terry accrued, it's easy to see why Carlisle felt this way. Perhaps the same will become true with Collison. Through one game, at least, it appears as if Collison will play more minutes than Fisher on any given night, despite not starting.
This methodology can be scene elsewhere in Carlisle's coaching, too. He's played the role of puppet master all season long, only guaranteeing starting positions to swingmen Shawn Marion and O.J. Mayo. Brandan Wright, Chris Kaman, Rodrigue Beaubois and Jae Crowder know this all too well.
But this may be the right tactic to utilize. In my last post here, I discussed the message that this move sends to his players. They certainly know by now that they will be held accountable for their actions on the court and that their playing time will be distributed based on that. At the same time, however, it's feasible that Carlisle's actions could cause some trouble and breed a sense of animosity among his players.
That's speculative, of course. For now, Carlisle's actions have prompted Collison to play some inspired basketball in the two games in which he's come off the bench.
And, even though I chided him earlier in the year, the one player who has played well consistently off the bench this year for the Mavericks is Vince Carter. Zack Lowe has a wonderful piece on Grantland on how Carter has been performing great of late and even on the defensive side of the ball. The piece is right; despite the fact that Carter is still taking too many long two-pointers (almost two a game), one cannot argue with how selflessly he has performed on this team, accepting any role that's asked of him.
It's just this kind of attitude that the Mavericks need on their team. And, without a doubt, that definitely factors some into the reasoning behind bringing Derek Fisher in.
To many, that move signaled that Dallas was simply tossing its hands in the air, ready to give up on the season. That couldn't be farther from the truth. The season is far too young at this point. And though this may not be an ideal move — and certainly not a popular one — it's clearly what the front office thought was necessary.
Now the team has to live with it.
And fans have to learn to accept it.
So much for it being a quiet week.