In 24 hours, Derek Fisher will begin finding out two things: Which NBA teams will find his championship experience and locker room leadership valuable enough to pursue, and which ones consider him a washed-up 37-year-old veteran with no ability to defend young guards or consistently hit shots.
After long searching for an upgrade at point guard, the Lakers last week acquired Ramon Sessions from Cleveland for Luke Walton, Jason Kapono, a 2012 first-round pick and less than $1 million in cash. Faced with an overstocked backcourt and a politically sensitive issue surrounding Fisher's demotion, the Lakers traded him and a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for Jordan Hill.
Since then, the Rockets waived Fisher on Monday, leaving him free to sign with any team except the Lakers once he clears waivers on Wednesday. Fisher's business manager suggested in a statement that Fisher and Houston reached a buyout aggreement partly because Fisher wants to play for a championship-contending team. And the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen reported the buyout paid him for the rest of this season, but he opted out of his $3.4-million player option for next season.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports that Fisher's wish list includes Chicago, Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma City, all teams with a better record than the Lakers (28-17). Here's a breakdown of each team.
Team: Chicago Bulls
Outlook: The Bulls don't really have much need for Fisher. Even with Derrick Rose nursing a groin injury, the Bulls have managed pretty well. C.J. Watson dropped double figures in three of the past four games, and John Lucas III made up for Watson's zero-of-eight effort Monday against Orlando with a 20-point outburst. The Bulls' guards are all high-tempo. So even if Fisher accepted a role deep into the backcourt rotation, his makeup wouldn't fit in with the Bulls.
Team: Miami Heat
Outlook: The Heat showed interest in Fisher when he was a free agent in 2010, and ESPN.com's Stein reported they've emerged as one of the early favorites this time around. LeBron James for one, also sounds on board for signing Fisher, possibly as another option to pass to in the fourth quarter. Fisher's deficiencies in speed and shooting consistency won't be as exposed in Miami since the Heat lack much production at that spot anyway with Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers.
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Outlook: Ever since Fisher hit that ridiculous game winner with .04 seconds left in the 2004 Western Conference semifinals, the Spurs have become both enamored and fearful of Fisher's presence. The Spurs already have plenty of championship experience and leadership. But their system would work well for Fisher since Coach Gregg Popovich has a strong track record of maximizing production out of role players.
Team: Oklahoma City
Outlook: The Thunder has become a playoff contender by making smart draft picks and developing talented young players. But Oklahoma City also recognized the importance that experience brings in the playoffs, a huge reason why they acquired Kendrick Perkins from Boston last season. Securing Fisher would give the Thunder another layer of experience to complement Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Considering the Thunder has lacked a true replacement for Eric Maynor, this scenario would probably prove to be the most realistic.
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