Every player inside the Thunder locker room can learn something from Derek Fisher, but one new teammate sounds relieved to have some company.
"It’s good to have another adult around here," deadpanned 31-year-old Thunder forward Nick Collison.
The 37-year-old Fisher last week was traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Houston Rockets, was bought out by the Rockets and became an unrestricted free agent after clearing waivers at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Thunder players and coaches had eight NBA championship rings before the arrival of Fisher, who has won five rings by himself.
"That’s a whole handful," rookie point guard Reggie Jackson said. "It’s kind of hard to envision not asking him questions. Hopefully, he’ll just spit out some info to me. None of us has been truly battle-tested like he has."
Fisher has played in seven NBA Finals, is the active leader in playoff games with 209 (one more than former teammate Kobe Bryant) and is fourth on the active list in games played with 1,154.
Fisher quickly explained he signed with OKC to add his talents to a roster and not to disrupt a team with the best record in the Western Conference (35-12).
"I’m not here to take away anything from anyone," Fisher said before making his debut in Wednesday night’s 114-91 victory at home over the Los Angeles Clippers.
It took just one game for Fisher to rearrange the Thunder’s substitution pattern, taking away Jackson’s backup role at the point and bumping workaholic reserve guard Royal Ivey one seat closer toward the end of the bench.
Fisher essentially has inherited the minutes initially backup point guard Eric Maynor played before he suffered a season-ending knee injury Jan. 7.
In the eyes of OKC coach Scott Brooks, Fisher is simply too valuable to leave on the bench. This means keeping the Thunder’s continuity intact with the arrival of a prominent newcomer will be a delicate balance.
"It’s the art of coaching," Brooks explained. "You have to understand that I coach fair and with honesty. I talk to the guys. I’ve always had tough conversations, but I’m not afraid to have them. Obviously people will be affected by him (Fisher) being here, but if you’re about the team, you have to accept that and we have guys who will accept that."
Asked what he thought of Fisher when he played against him, point guard Russell Westbrook said: "You know what you’re going to get. He defends. He makes smart plays. He knocks down open shots."
Of all the players Fisher could impact in the coming months, perhaps Westbrook stands to benefit the most. Westbrook is one of the league’s most gifted – yet mercurial – players and at times struggles to properly channel his energy and passion.
Fisher thinks highly of Westbrook, and vice versa.
"Just unbelievably talented," Fisher said of the 23-year-old Westbrook. "The level of improvement from year to year, and what he’s been able to do to lead this team to the top of the Western Conference says a lot about his abilities. It’s never easy playing against him. Now, hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to practice against him every day.
"But being on the same team when the game starts, that’ll be a lot better for me. Hopefully it’s a lot better for him because we definitely need to be able to work together to lead this team. But this is going to be a group effort. It won’t just be my job, or Russell’s job, or Kevin (Durant’s) job. It’ll be every guy on that team really doing the best we can to maximize what we are."
As Fisher dressed at his locker for the first time, Westbrook playfully poked fun at him selecting jersey No. 37, which is Fisher’s age. Fisher shook his head and smiled.
"Derek’s a great guy, man," Westbrook said. "A great locker-room guy. He’s won a million championships and knows what it takes to win."
What can Westbrook learn from Fisher?
"A lot," Westbrook said. "Leadership, especially for me; the way he carries himself as a professional."
Collison said he believes Brooks has the right temperament to make the addition of Fisher a smooth transition. There are numerous times when players make suggestions to Brooks during practices and games.
"Coach is open to hearing anything," Collison said. "He’s not necessarily going to change anything unless he thinks it’s the right thing to do. I think he’s open to listen to anybody on our team. For the most part, we let coach do his job and follow directions."
Reserve center Nazr Mohammed said there is no hesitation on anyone’s part to share their thoughts with Brooks.
"Coach Brooks has an open-door, open-court policy if you have something to say," Mohammed said. "Me and him have had talks and you can bounce whatever you want off of him. That’s the great part about him, and that’s just not me. Reggie can go say, ’Hey, this is what I saw’ and coach would listen."