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Thunder loses more than a third-string point guard in Derek Fisher

by Jenni Carlson Published: June 9, 2014

Derek Fisher will be back at The Peake next season.

I suspect he’ll be wearing a very dapper suit.

Yes, as expected for the past few days, Fisher has accepted the head coaching job with the New York Knicks. Reports out of the Big Apple say the details are still being finalized but that a five-year, $25 million deal is expected.

The Knicks finally have a coach, but now, the Thunder needs a third-string point guard.

And a veteran locker room presence.

And a coach-in-the-making type.

Fisher, after all, was way more than the third-string point guard during his nearly three seasons in Oklahoma City. He became a steadying force for the Thunder, a player who had the respect of every guy in the locker room, a veteran who knew what it took to win a title and shared that knowledge in a way that didn’t offend anyone.

“People don’t see what he does behind the scenes,” Thunder veteran Nick Collison said, “but the guy, he’s incredible.”

As the big man talked during his exit interview two weekends ago, it was clear that Collison, an impressive locker room presence in his own right, was in awe of Fisher these past few years.

“Different from any teammate I’ve had,” Collison said. “The way he can address the team. Almost like a coach, but guys don’t roll their eyes at him like, ‘Who is this guy?’ He feels like one of us, but at the same time, he has these abilities that are different than anybody in terms of leadership.”

And now, the Thunder must fill the void that Fisher leaves on its roster.

So, who might be his replacement?

There’s no one quite like him in the league, of course, but ever since the Thunder has been in Oklahoma City, it has always had that veteran presence, that locker room champion.

Desmond Mason.

Kevin Ollie.

Nazr Mohammed.

Royal Ivey.

Mason was as close as any of them came to being a star, but really, each of those players was brought in by the Thunder to do more than play. They were brought in to lead and nurture and assist.

Not coincidentally, I suspect, most of these Fisher types even lockered in the same area. They were on the Durant-Westbrook-Ibaka side of the locker room.

So, now that Fisher is taking his talents to Manhattan Beach, it’s safe to assume the Thunder is on the lookout for someone to take over that role. A veteran. A leader. A winner. And oh, someone with a cheap price tag.

Fisher made $1.3 million this past season.

The Thunder might be willing to go above that number for Fisher’s replacement, but a deal in that ballpark likely removes someone like Trevor Ariza from consideration. Ditto for Shawn Marion. Both are free agents, but both made north of $7.5 million this season. Even if one of them was willing to take a paycut, a reduction that’s big enough to work with the Thunder’s salary structure seems unlikely.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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