Derek Fisher knows his shot is not falling.
But, at least for now, the 37-year-old veteran isn't concerned with the prolonged shooting slump that has plagued him.
“I haven't spent a lot of time drilling myself over the number of shots being made because I'm not a volume shooter,” Fisher said. “I'm not a guy that's going to get a lot of shots. It's more about timely baskets, being able to make shots when you need to make shots.”
In nine games since joining the Thunder on March 21, Fisher has made just 9-of-40 shots from the field. He's made just 3-of-17 3-pointers.
Touted when he came to town as a floor spacer capable of canning clutch shots, Fisher has made just one shot out of 12 attempts in his previous four games. His last 3-pointer came six games ago, and he's averaged just 2.7 points as a member of the Thunder.
“Obviously I'd like to make a couple of more shots. But I'm not focusing on that part much,” Fisher said. “If I get three or four shots in a game, I'd love to make all three or four of them. But the main part is really helping that second group become a cohesive unit so when we step on the floor we know what we want to do offensively. We know how to cover for each other on the defensive end. And that coach can trust us whether we have a 20-point lead or we're down 10.
“That's the biggest piece of what I need to do. I think that's what Eric (Maynor) did a great job of before he got hurt is really leading that second unit from that standpoint.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks has shown unwavering support in Fisher despite his lack of offense, playing the 16-year veteran 20.2 minutes on average while giving Fisher the nod over guards like Daequan Cook and Royal Ivey, both of whom had been extremely productive coming off the bench. Although Fisher played a season-high 36 minutes in his second game with the Thunder — a double-overtime home victory over Minnesota on March 23 — and is coming off a 27-minute night at Indiana, Brooks said he prefers to keep Fisher between 15 and 20 minutes.
Brooks cites Fisher's toughness, his basketball IQ and his winning mentality as his reasons for sticking with Fisher.
“I can't emphasize that enough,” Brooks said of those traits. “He just does all the little things that help you win games. That's who he is.”
Nonetheless, Fisher's slump has called into question Brooks' resolute rotation, which now has Fisher as a fixture in several lineups including crunchtime. One issue with Fisher's performance is that he isn't just mired in a nine-game slump. Fisher has struggled all season. He shot just 38 percent in 43 games with the Lakers and made only 32.4 percent of his 3s. Worse, Fisher's 29.7 percent shooting clip from beyond the 3-point line has him on pace to finish with his second lowest 3-point percentage of his career.
“It's easy to focus on the shooting percentage, but that will come,” Brooks said. “Every player will go through a hot streak, a cold streak and a streak that's who you are.”
Fisher attributes a portion of his struggles to having to adjust to a new role. With the Lakers, Fisher was a starter for the past 4 1/2 seasons and averaged between 26 and 30 minutes. He could let the game come to him and pick his spots inside what was largely a free-flowing Lakers offense. With the Thunder, Fisher now has to play behind starter Russell Westbrook and, with Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden dominating the ball, Fisher has seen his opportunities shrink to 4.4 shots per game, the fewest since his rookie season.
“It's a difficult task, whether it's 16 minutes or 26 minutes, to get between three and five shots,” Fisher said. “In that course, you've got to knock them down. So there are times where I'm probably hoping to and trying really hard to make those shots and not just relaxing and shooting.”
Fisher refused to blame his performance on the taxing responsibility he had during the offseason, when he spent hours upon hours flying across the country and attending collective bargaining agreement negotiating sessions as president of the players association. Fisher would concede only that the lockout-shortened season has had “some impact on the way guys have played this year.”
“I'm as comfortable as I can be personally in terms of being with these guys and with this team and these coaches. Everything is great from that standpoint,” Fisher said. “On the floor, I'm still finding my way but still pretty comfortable.”
The second unit has indeed performed better with Fisher than it did with rookie Reggie Jackson. And continuing to help bolster that unit, Fisher said, will remain his main mission.
“The biggest thing is in that second group in particular that we continue to find ways to be effective,” Fisher said, “not just in getting James the ball and allowing him to do his thing but really becoming a unit and being five guys that can impact a game and change the pace of a game in comparison to our starters. I think that's going to be key for us down the stretch.”
That goal, Brooks said, is a shining example of Fisher's leadership.
“That's coming from a veteran guy that understands the importance of the little things,” Brooks said. “Most players would think, ‘Man, I'm not shooting the ball well. The team is not going to do well with me shooting bad.' But Derek understands because of all the history he has in this league that the little things help you win games.”
Fisher's shooting slump, in his mind, is secondary.
“I don't just judge myself by that part of the game,” Fisher said. “I don't think it's something that is going to impact my confidence or my ability to help us. I'm going to keep spending my time before and after practice and shootaround and that part will come. I'm confident in that. I'm just looking forward to finishing strong.”
Raptors vs. Thunder
When: 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD Ch. 722)
Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM