It would be easy, and not inaccurate, to say Derek Fisher gave Oklahoma City experience and wisdom. But Royal Ivey said those words do Fisher a disservice.
The Thunder had been around old guys before, and they’d received plenty of advice from well-intentioned elders trying to prepare them for big moments. And yet until Fisher arrived in March, they’d never seen the past’s relevance to the present with such clarity.
Not only was Fisher a player who they’d watched lifting trophies, slipping on rings and beating the Spurs in four slivers of a second, he’s a guy who understands why the young Oklahoma City players’ current situation was different. And when he speaks, Ivey said, even Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook marvel at the details.
“He can dissect auras,” Ivey said.
The specific details of Fisher’s daily lectures in the Oklahoma City locker room remain a guarded secret. What is more readily evident to outsiders about Fisher’s role in the Western Conference finals — which the Thunder trail 1-0 heading into tonight’s Game 2 at the ATT Center — is that Fisher isn’t yet too old to create a little on-court aura of his own.
Sunday in Game 1, the 37-year-old guard tormented Spurs fans for what seemed like the hundredth time, swishing each of his first six shots and lifting the Thunder to a nine-point fourth-quarter lead. And even though Oklahoma City couldn’t finish it off, Fisher had more material for another lesson.
Even though everyone has talked about this series being about one Big Three against another, isn’t there a chance everything can be decided by the guys from which no one expects greatness?
“Always does,” Fisher said, smiling.
Even though they’d heard similar things before, when Fisher says it, the Thunder players nod their heads. Ivey, a little-used veteran guard and one of Durant’s closest friends, said Fisher filled a void no one else could step into.
Durant and Westbrook, Ivey said, are capable leaders, but disinclined to make big speeches. Fisher was hesitant at first to speak up in front of players who he didn’t know well but soon discovered the Thunder were aching for a vocal leader.
“He’s been to the pinnacle and back,” Ivey said. “He’s had all those big moments in his career that guys like Kevin and Russ want. You want that manuscript.”
Part of the manuscript, Fisher said, is not stressing over every mistake. As he explained Monday, “it’s tough to put together a perfect game,” and the Thunder don’t need one to beat the Spurs.
Instead, they just need to rely primarily on their young legs and occasionally on his old ones. And if the aura of a team on a 19-game winning streak stands in their way?
They at least can take some solace in having experience and wisdom, and the knowledge that they can dissect it.