Now that his contract with the Houston Rockets has been bought out, 14-year NBA veteran and five-time NBA Champion Derek Fisher is officially a free agent. The 37-year-old point guard, who had played in 537 consecutive games before being traded to the Rockets on March 15, can now go shopping for his favorite NBA team and try to find a good fit before he retires in the next few years.
But of all of the choices out there, where should Fisher go?
Since he can't re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers and he has already played for the Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors, Fisher might consider playing in another conference where he won't have to face his former teammates and friends on a regular basis. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, this might be the case. Fisher reportedly has interest in two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, including the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat.
Whether the Bulls or Heat reciprocate a desire to play with Fisher is not yet known. Fisher is averaging about 6 points, 3 assists and 2 rebounds per game this season, but this average is only slightly lower than what he's averaged over his career (9 points, 3 assists and 2 rebounds). Fisher has plenty left in the tank, and teams should assess whether or not Fisher would fit based on his play style and history.
If Fisher went to the Chicago Bulls, he would likely play back-up to Derrick Rose and push back-up point guard John Lucas to the second back-up, C.J. Watson to the third back-up, and probably push the team's fourth point guard Mike James off the roster. The Bulls might even have to release Watson and James in order to pay Fisher a decent salary, given his veteran status and playing ability.
But what would Fisher offer the Bulls? He doesn't have the same quickness he was known for -- the same quickness that pulled off the 0.4 shot -- but he is still an incredibly intelligent player on the court and a good leader. A veteran presence is needed in the backcourt when Rose and newly-acquired shooting guard Rip Hamilton (currently injured) can't be on the court. The Bulls are a young and talented team, but they could use Fisher for his court leadership, organization, and clutch plays.
Fisher would be an excellent fit in Miami as well. The Heat are an extremely young team in the back court: The team's two point guards, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, are 25 and 23 years old, respectively. While Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James provide some leadership in their scoring abilities, Fisher is a proven leader, and more importantly, a winner. He has 5 NBA Championship rings to prove it, and that sort of consistency and reliability would be good for Miami, a team that continually struggles in the clutch.
Besides the Eastern Conference teams, Fisher is reportedly also interested in the Los Angeles Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs. These are both unlikely scenarios, however. The Clippers are loaded in the back court with point guards Chris Paul, Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe. Even though the team no longer has Chauncey Billups, the Clippers don't seem interested in more short point guards. Fisher can score, but he shouldn't be relied on heavily for points, which is what the Clippers are looking for in a point guard.
As far as the Spurs go, Fisher would simply add age to an already-aged backcourt. Tony Parker and Gary Neal are 29 and 27, respectively, but Fisher is 37. As the team also has Manu Ginobili (34) and Tim Duncan (35), the team is already grappling with age. Getting older is the last thing they need, but you never know with coach Gregg Popovitch, who always loves a dark horse player.
What other teams could Fisher visit? If he wants a shot to win the NBA title, he may want to look at the Orlando Magic now that they've managed to retain Dwight Howard, and he should definitely look at the dominating Western Conference teams in the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder. Fisher will probably not take this advice, since playing Kobe and the Lakers in the playoffs would be uncomfortable for Fish, but these teams probably wouldn't accept him for this reason too. Plus, who wants to their point guard going native?
One source says Bulls are right at top of Fisher's wish list ... but whether Chicago plans to reciprocate that interest remains to be seen
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) March 19, 2012
Fisher's best chance to win a championship, or to help a championship-caliber team, is to join one of the Eastern Conference squads. The Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic are all excellent choices. Fisher is smart with the ball, either passing it or shooting it, and he is a valuable asset to a young team that wants to know what it takes to get a title. It's a shame that the Lakers had to release Fisher, who meant so much to the Los Angeles franchise over the past decade or so, but now the veteran has another shot to make an impact in the NBA. Teams would be passing up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if they didn't at least consider Fisher.