An NBA scouting report on Derek Fisher, circa 1996

Hard to believe it’s been 16 years since D-Fish made his first splash in the NBA. And this fall marks the first fall since 1996 that he isn’t already signed with a team, whether that be Los Angeles, Golden State or Utah. Whoever he lands with next – whether it be the Lakers again, or the Celtics or even Clippers – he’ll be needed more for his off-court leadership qualities than on-court ability.

Before we start ascribing to Fish Creaky Old Man-dom, let’s first recall he was once  one of the most physically imposing guards in the Sun Belt Conference. And that while he was never the quickest NBA guard [the Iverson-Fisher matchup wasn’t pretty in Game 1 of the 2000 NBA Finals] he certainly had the physical chops to impress a few NBA scouts. [Ed: Just found video evidence. This, I believe, is his career’s most impressive dunk]

One such scout was Clarence Gaines II, who on his Web site  “A Scout’s Perspective” shares his take on Fisher from the spring of 1996, a couple months before the draft. Gaines reported the following to the Chicago Bulls:

“… Remarkably, nobody in our organization saw Derek play while he was at Arkansas Little-Rock.  First time I saw Derek play was at post season all-star tournament {Portsmouth Invitational Tournament} in Portsmouth,VA in April of 1996. He played well in Portsmouth, but was not extended an invitation to the the Desert Classic in Phoenix, which featured higher caliber players.  However, a player pulled out of Phoenix and Derek was a last minute replacement. Derek played his first game in Phoenix without the benefit of practice and continued to shine. Derek became the 1st round pick {24th} of the LA Lakers in 1996 because of his play in Post Season All-Star games. He did it the old fashioned way, by not being afraid to showcase his talents in an all-star venue. Derek is a class act. One of the most impressive interviews I participated in during my NBA career.

Want to know more about him. Will watch tape. Physically developed. Structurally strong. Has been lifting weights since high school. Strong legs and butt. Big hands. Big body for a point guard. Will be able to defend against bigger guards. Left handed. Possible late 1st round pick–high upside. Good speed with the dribble. Like his ability to turn the corner and get his own shot. Able to rise up and over other point guards off the dribble–gets good lift and has very good leg strength. Shoots best off the dribble. Does a good job of utilizing screens and popping jump shot. Plays bigger than size. Good 1 on 1 skills. Sees the floor on the move. Vision is good in the open court. Has the ability to get all the way to the basket in the open court. Shows deep shooting range–career 38% from the 3 pt. line. Needs to develop more consistency in spot shooting ability. strength of game is currently off the dribble. Can get too infatuated with one-on-one play, but I like his offensive aggressiveness.

Late addition to Phoenix, but I was impressed that he was able to make a contribution in the first game without the benefit of practice. Not intimidated at all by the All-Star format. Able to get a clean look at the basket in bailout/red zone situations. Sets decent picks. Has a physicalness to his game and tough mentality
that I like. Performance fell off a little in last game of the Desert Classic. Didn’t do a good job of getting his team into their offense in the third quarter. Like him on the defensive end. He will compete. Great defensive stance. Gets his arms out. Quick hands. Low center of gravity. Strong and quick enough to prevent his man from turning the corner. Good on the ball defender and good awareness off the ball. Will double down to attempt strip and recovers quickly. Good explosiveness in claiming rebound–will be an excellent rebounder for a lead guard. Strength and quickness to handle small and mid size point guards. Has a stopper’s mentality–takes pride in his defense.

Born and raised in Little Rock, Ark. 21 yrs. old (8/9/74). Two parent household. Dad works for the postal service and mom works for a bank. Younger brother is 19 and married. Half brother (same mother) is Duane Washington of Middle Tenn. State. Has an understanding of the pro lifestyle due to Duane’s trials and tribulations. Started playing when he was 5. Involved with AAU ball since he was 10. Played AAU ball with the likes of Corliss Williamson and Marcus Brown.

H.S. basketball program [Parkview] was highly organized. Emphasized the word “program” to us. Fundamentals, lifting and conditioning were emphasized. Coached by Charles Ripley who is now at Western Arkansas J.C. All 5 starters attended Division I programs. 3 yr. record was 86-12. Won state AAAA Championship in senior year.  Played off guard spot in high school, but had as many assists as the pt. guard. Participated in soccer, baseball and football until he was in high school. Dedicated to conditioning his body–will get up at 6:00 am to work out. Like his pedigree. Lightly recruited. Almost attended Liberty U.* Raised in the baptist church and is active in FCA and bible study groups. I like his makeup. Presents self well. Has a professional attitude. Mature. Fractured his ring finger on right hand during junior year and only missed 2 games. Showed toughness in playing through pain in 6 games. Considers self to be unselfish and a team player.

Penetrator. Stopper–always checked best guard. Preferred Coach Platt off the court because was a father figure.** Prefers Coach Sanderson on court because of his on the floor coaching and style of play. Likes uptempo, but feels he is adept at playing any style of ball. Works hard on individual skills in spring and summer. Solid philosophy in talking about determination–“it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you handle it.” Has evolved as a player. Has surpassed his high school teammates. Was able to get a lot of time at Little Rock. Started 104 of 112 games in career. Feels he has been a leader since freshman year.  Feels he needs to better recognize when individual opportunities present themselves out of the normal flow of the offense. To sacrifice is the inherent trait that he believes all point guards share: CAREER STATS: 112 g, 32.3 min, 41% FG, 38% 3-pt, 75% FT, 12.4 pts, 4.4 reb, 4.2 a, 2.4 TO, 1.7 st.”

*Liberty was only one of a few small colleges Fisher considered attending. Ironically, Fisher also strongly considered the school at which the scout Clarence Gaines’ father coached –  Winston-Salem State University. Fisher writes more about this in his autobiography, or you can read the relevant section in the comment section of the outstanding “Scout’s Perspective” blog where I found this report.

** I lol’ed a bit here. This father figure stuff goes entirely against the grain of Fisher’s autobiography. In it, Platt is presented as one helluva cantankerous dude, who constantly berated his players without building them up. Small wonder he fell out of favor with the team during Fisher’s sophomore season. The players actually ended boycotting a practice by visiting the mall. Soon thereafter, they demanded Platt be fired in the middle of the season. He wasn’t then, but definitely didn’t come back the next season.

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