The Derek Fisher signing means a couple of things. But mainly, the Mavericks failures in the draft have finally come back to haunt them.
Yes, the news is a bit unsettling on this Thursday morning. Derek Fisher is not only a Maverick, but, eventually, the Mavericks starting point guard as well.
It's a stunning turn of events. Darren Collison looked absolutely delightful in the Mavericks first five games. He was scoring, he was getting to the rim and he was making decent half court passes and reads. He was not only performing well in the areas we expected (transition, isolation, mid-range game) but in others we expected him to struggle (pick and rolls).
Collison was playing so well, that even esteemed NBA scribes Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe couldn't help but gush about him and Rick Carlisle even when the two were talking about the Pacers. Here's an expert from a post a couple of weeks ago:
Lowe: The Collison/Mahinmi exchange looks even worse now. Our buddy Hollinger hammered them immediately for it, since the Pacers had cap space to sign Mahinmi outright during a brief window before the Hibbert and George Hill contracts kicked in. Something obviously happened there - either Indiana felt like it wasn't going to be able to get the Mahinmi signing done quickly in straight-up free agency, or they knew another signing (Gerald Green) was coming down the pike and Herb Simon essentially forced them to dump an extra salary slot (Dahntay Jones) to make that happen.
Simmons: It was a genuinely perplexing move. Plus, Collison always produced whenever someone gave him big minutes, as any fantasy hoops junkie would tell you. Whenever he was splitting time with someone, he never looked as comfortable. We know Indiana felt George Hill was a better starting option, so maybe they believed Collison would suffer getting just 20-25 minutes a night. Either way, he always seemed like someone who couldn't find the right team. Now? He might have the right team.
Lowe: Yeah, Collison looks like a different guy under Rick Carlisle's mind control. He's being more aggressive, especially in transition, and he's thrown a couple of passes in the half court that made me rewind the DVR and make sure it was him. Really good stuff. The Pacers knew they were losing some speed/creativity when they lost him, but perhaps they thought (a) Augustin could replicate 75 percent of it; (b) Green would help in that regard; (c) it might not matter, given the way they play through their bigs.
Simmons: I'm beginning to think Carlisle should be in the running for the 2016 Olympics coach. He beat LeBron and Wade for the title; he's keeping the Mavs alive right now without Dirk; he's saved the careers of Collison and O.J. Mayo; he's made Jae Crowder a household name; he's turned Eddy Curry into a double-double guy - OK, fine, he couldn't do that last one. But everything else happened.
Lowe: Carlisle is clearly one of the half-dozen best coaches in the league, and he's in the conversation - maybe at the top of it - for the no. 2 spot behind Pop.
That was posted on Nov. 7. On Nov. 21, Collison scored a season-high 21 points in a loss to Minnesota. Since that game? It isn't pretty. Here are his per-game averages:
10.4 points, 35.7 percent shooting, 5.6 assists, 3 turnovers. That's bad.
What's even worse is that Collison's defense has regressed so bad that he can't even play average defense to salvage his mediocre offensive line the last few weeks.
According to 82games.com, when Collison is OFF the floor, the Mavericks defense is, brace yourselves, 14.6 points per 100 possessions BETTER. That's an astronomical number, even if the sample size is small. The Mavericks defense was getting killed with a Collison/O.J. Mayo backcourt (check Mayo's numbers, they are almost as bad).
That's why Collison was benched. At least Mayo was giving the Mavericks something on offense. And that's why Derek Fisher is here and will be your starter.
It's a catastrophic admission of defeat from Mark Cuban and the Mavericks front office that declared the team was better off without Deron Williams. Yeah, that's really looked to be the case. Sure, there's no Dirk. But Dirk isn't going to help the team's perimeter defense and scoring. He'll help cut down the turnovers and give the Mavs offense an enormous boost, but that won't make Collison stop looking completely lost on pick and roll coverage (if you squint your eyes, he looks like Rodrigue Beaubois!)
Carlisle, Cuban and the rest will spin it as a positive to have Collison off the bench (they already have) and the league is starting to figure out that starting doesn't really matter as much as it used to. But this matters. Collison was supposed to be the starter. Maybe he'll still be the closer, but it's obvious that this isn't working out. Regardless how you feel about starting/coming off the bench, Collison not starting is a result of disastrous play.
Which leads us back to the draft. If the Mavericks 2009 and 2010 first-round draft picks worked out, Fisher wouldn't be needed. Instead, Dominique Jones and Rodrigue Beaubois would just step in.
Instead, we get Jones streaking to the basket, 1 on 5, and completely missing the rim on a layup. We see Beaubois look like a lost child on the court. The Mavericks let Jason Kidd and Jason Terry go because the front office and coaching staff felt the draft picks and acquisitions were enough. They weren't. Dallas hasn't been bit by its awful drafts because of those steady veterans in the past.
This is what happens when you waste draft after draft after draft. You can try to hide it with veteran signings and trades, but it will eventually kill you. Right now, it's killing the Mavericks. Welcome, Derek Fisher. And may God have mercy on our souls.