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Q&A: Derek Fisher on Rejoining the Thunder

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 6:46 pm •  Published: February 26, 2013

Here’s what Derek Fisher had to say to reporters following his first practice today.

Q: What brought you back?
A: After leaving Dallas and having the opportunity to take a few weeks to get my knee healed up, and then spend some additional time with my family over the last couple of months, as I started to think about my career and talk to my wife, talk to my family, the consensus as a group for us is that I deserved this opportunity to come back and be a part of something special here in terms of this community, this team, this organization. I’m not planning on retiring at the end of the season, but if this is my last season I deserve this opportunity to be here with this group. That’s really what brought me back.

Q: When you left Dallas, did you think this was a possibility or did you think it was over?
A: I was unsure. I knew that I still wanted to play the game. I knew I still had the love, the work ethic, the passion. The injury was a setback. The biggest struggle for me even after 16 years was playing in a different city, being away from my family. Those are things that I struggled with. But as I was leaving Dallas, I understood the risk, that that could possibly be my last game and my last opportunity. But as I stated earlier, as I healed up over the few weeks after I left and started training again, I was not necessarily planning on having the opportunity to play again but as I stated it was a group decision kind of as a family that this opportunity was worth coming back for and worth me having an opportunity to finish the way I would like to finish.

Q: Have you had a chance to talk to Scotty yet and talk in depth about your role on this team? Do you envision it to be similar to last year as the backup point guard? What do you have in mind?
A: No. I’ve come here without any sense of entitlement or expectation in terms of what Scotty or the team is supposed to do. This team, just like when I showed up last year, is obviously already been able to put together a great season, a great record. It’s not for me to come in here and try to be something that I’m not. So whatever role or whatever opportunities Scotty and the team see for me in terms of being helpful, then that’s what I’m willing to play. I think Reggie Jackson has played really solid basketball and deserves the opportunity to continue to play. And so Scotty will make those decisions. Like I said, I’m just thankful to have this opportunity to be on a team, to be back. Scotty’s a great coach. He’ll make the decisions that he feels is best for the team. I’ll just make sure that I’m prepared no matter what happens.

Q: Why not stay here the whole time? Was that made available to you, just re-sign at the end of last year?
A: No. It was something that we talked about. But I think Sam Presti, being not just the great general manager that he is, but I think the great person that he is, felt a responsibility to be more focused on Eric (Maynor’s) return and Reggie Jackson’s development. And that was more of a priority. That was something we talked about in my final exit meeting last year. And so I think we both realized that it would probably be tough for me to come back in the right setting at the end of last season. But it for sure would have been something that I was willing to do. So it’s obviously quite surreal still at this point to have this opportunity to come back now.

Q: What else do you notice about this team, maybe the way it’s grown or changed?
A: Well, if you think about from the last game this team played in the NBA Finals to some of the uncertainty, I guess, as training camp began with whether James (Harden) is going to stay or not. And then to lose the caliber of player that James Harden was, is and will become, a lot of teams would not be able to withstand that, even with an addition like Kevin Martin, who’s been great. But I think for such a young team, you just have to continue to marvel at and be amazed at the level of maturity and their ability to be mentally focused on being successful day in and day out. So I still see that in this team. But I also see a willingness and a desire to get better. And so for a team to make it to the NBA Finals and still see the desire to get better, knowing that there’s still some unfinished business left on the table, that’s refreshing and I’m humble to be a part of it.

Q: Where are you from a conditioning standpoint, and how ready are you to play?
A: I’m in great physical condition. My knee was healed up in a few weeks, and essentially since the first of the year I’ve been training hard and pushing hard. Obviously playing basketball, NBA basketball in particular, you can’t practice that. There isn’t anything that can prepare you for playing in the game. So even with being in great shape, whatever minutes that I do get, whether it’s tomorrow, or this weekend or whenever they come, it’ll still take time to get extremely comfortable out there on the floor, doing a lot of the things I’m capable of doing. But as I told Scotty and Sam and other people that I’ve spoken to, my tank is much more full showing up this year than it was last year. And so I plan on being more impactful and more effective than I was for the team last year.

Q: How long was this process? There were rumblings for a few days that you were thinking about it. Was there something said, or a way you felt, that said ‘OK, I’m in.”
A: Well no. I think that with the relationships that were developed during the season last year, I’ve stayed in touch with some of these guys and Sam and Troy Weaver. I think after Eric was traded, which I think was something that they felt like was best for Eric and best for the team long-term future wise, that’s really when the opportunity presented itself. Without that trade, I don’t think I’d be here and we’d be talking about this. But I think that was kind of the catalyst to then being able to have some conversations over the last several days to get us to this point. Like I said, I’m thankful. I’m appreciative. And so I’m showing up here as or more focused and committed to doing everything that I can possibly do to help this team, help this city win a championship. That’s as simple as it gets.

Q: I’m assuming your jersey number has some significance?
A: I wore No. 2 for most of my career. And as I changed teams and No. 2 not being available, I had to find reasons why I should wear other numbers. Last year, obviously 37 was a reminder to myself and some other folks that at 37 you can still play. I didn’t want to go to 38 this year even though I’m 38. So six, first and foremost, was a smaller, more of a guard number as opposed to some of the other numbers I probably would have had to choose from. But for sure it kind of symbolizes and serves as motivation for myself that winning at the end of the day as a team is what this is all about. It symbolizes something for me in terms of No. 6, but it also symbolizes for me the reason why I’m here to be a part of this team and that’s to help get (championship) No. 1.

Q: What would winning your sixth championship mean to you?
A: Having the opportunity to win another championship would obviously mean a lot. But as I just stated, winning as a team is what brings me the most joy and the most satisfaction. And so when I think about this group of players, this organization, how fast things have grown and developed to be a championship contending team, to win another one for me personally would be extremely gratifying because of this, not because of me. The number means something to me and for me. But it still symbolizes the connection between what I hope to be able to do to help this team win a championship.

Q: Did the guys tread lightly around you last year, and was it different when you showed up this year? Were they joking with you? How did they respond in that regard?
A: I think I probably treaded more lightly than they did last year. I spoke to you guys a lot last year about not walking in here assuming these guys are supposed to respect me. I think respect is earned. And I wanted this group of guys to get a feel for who I am and what I do before I expected them to then be able to somewhat follow my example as a leader in some ways. So it was more so me treading lightly. They had jokes and things to laugh about right away. I mean, they were 22, 23 years old. Everything’s a joke. So this year coming in, I don’t feel as if I have to tread lightly. I think this group understands who I am, understands who they are. I think it’s extremely clear what our goal is, what we’re here to accomplish, and often times that’s what sets the table. Once we all have a common purpose and a common goal, then it’s just about us each doing our jobs and so that’s what I’m here to do.

-DM-

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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