When discussing Derek Fisher with those in the Thunder organization, it always turns to the intangibles.
A coach on the court. A leader in the locker room. A consummate pro who does all the little things.
You know, all those hard-to-quantify qualities that frustrate Thunder fans when used to validate Fisher's steady rotation role.
But not lately. The talk of the intangibles will remain there. But Fisher's productive play has done more than enough to quell any doubts about whether he should be receiving minutes.
In the past month, the 39-year-old is playing his best basketball since joining the Thunder. And, with Russell Westbrook's absence leaving Fisher as the only reserve point guard, it couldn't have come at a better time.
“He's playing great,” Thunder teammate Nick Collison said. “He brings a ton of value to this team.”
Lately, that's been particularly true on the perimeter.
Throughout the first half of the season, OKC was one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the NBA.
In the first month, everyone struggled. And Fisher might have been the biggest culprit, making only two of his first 18 attempts from deep.
But in each proceeding month, the Thunder's 3-point shooting has continued to rise. And by no coincidence, so has Fisher's: from 15 percent in November to 31 percent in December, from 42 percent in January to a scorching 52 percent in February.
Over the past 13 games, 11 of which have been Thunder wins, Fisher has lit it up from the outside, making 25 of his 43 threes (58 percent). He has made multiple threes in four straight games and seven of the past nine.
But it's not just the proficiency. It's the timing.
Fisher's threes typically coincide with the start of a Thunder run.
When OKC looked on the verge of getting blown out in Miami, Fisher drilled two first quarter triples and the tables immediately turned. He finished 5-of-5 from deep in that crucial win.
On Tuesday night in Portland, an early Fisher three sparked a previously struggling Thunder offense, and a late Fisher three started what turned out to be a vital 7-0 fourth quarter spurt.
“It seems like he always hits them at big times,” Collison said. “Of course, he's known for the legendary late-in-the-games, but when he does it, a lot of times it's in the second quarter and we go on a run.”
Collectively, Fisher has been an important part of a Thunder second-unit that has consistently outplayed its counterpart as of late.
In the past 18 games, Fisher has had a positive plus/minus in 15 of them. Combined, OKC has outscored opponents by 97 points when he is on the court.
And it's not just his shooting. In spurts, he's been a disruptive perimeter defender.
“Defensively, he's one of our best guards at fighting over screens, at being in the right place on helps, bump and cut and things like that,” Collison said. “So he's really big for us.”
And even when Westbrook returns, Fisher still figures to play an important role.
Given his documented respect for Fisher, it's hard to imagine coach Scott Brooks cutting him out of the rotation. He trusts Fisher too much.
And with the way he's been playing lately, so do Thunder fans.