Five-time world champion Derek Fisher said he would love to have re-signed as a free agent with the Thunder after last season, but there was no offer to do so.
Fisher said Thunder general manager Sam Presti opted to focus on the futures of backup point guards Eric Maynor and Reggie Jackson and did not extend an offer to re-sign Fisher following the team's 4-1 loss to the Miami Heat in last year's NBA Finals.
“It was something that we talked about, but I think Sam Presti — being not just a great general manager that he is but the great person that he is — felt a responsibility to be more so focused on Eric's return and Reggie Jackson's development,” Fisher said Tuesday. “That was more of a priority and that was something we talked about in my final exit meeting last year.
“I think we both realized it would be tough for me to probably come back (to OKC) in the right setting at the end of last season, but it for sure would have been something I was willing to do. Obviously, it's quite surreal still at this point to have this opportunity to come back now.”
Fisher instead signed as a free agent with the Dallas Mavericks, played in nine games, injured his knee and said he left the Mavericks to spend more time with his family in Los Angeles.
At the NBA trade deadline last Thursday, Presti traded Maynor to the Portland Trail Blazers for a $2.5 million trade exception, and also obtained defensive specialist Ronnie Brewer from the New York Knicks in exchange for OKC's second-round draft choice in 2014, plus cash considerations.
The exit of Maynor's remaining salary made it financially possible for the Thunder to re-sign Fisher and remain under the NBA's punitive tax level this season.
“That's really when the opportunity presented itself,” Fisher said of returning to OKC after Maynor's departure. “Without that trade, I don't think I'd be here and we'd be talking about this. I think that was kind of the catalyst to then being able to have some conversation over the last several days to get us to this point. Like I said, I'm thankful, I'm appreciative.”
Fisher will wear jersey No. 6, signifying his quest for a sixth NBA championship. Coincidentally, that also was the jersey number Maynor wore for three seasons with the Thunder.
“I think this group understands who I am. I understand who they are,” said the 38-year-old Fisher, who won all his titles while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2004; 2007-12). “I think it's extremely clear what our goal is and what we're here to accomplish, and oftentimes that's what sets the table. Once we all have a common purpose and common goal, it's about us each doing our jobs. That's what I'm here to do.”