Is Derek Fisher the Right Man for the New York Knicks?
Well New York Knickerbocker fans, it's the news you've been waiting to hear:
Derek Fisher is finalizing an agreement on a 5-year, $25 million deal to become the Knicks coach, league sources tell Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 9, 2014
The "Zen Master" Phil Jackson got his man in Fisher, a guy who he coached for all five of the NBA Championships he won while heading the Los Angeles Lakers.
While Fisher instantly becomes one of the youngest coaches in the NBA, he also becomes one of the highest paid guys on the sidelines after playing on the court as recently as nine days ago. The 39 year old's $5 million per year deal trumps the contracts of the Miami Heat's Erik Spoelstra, the Dallas Mavericks' Rick Carlisle, the Indiana Pacers' Frank Vogel, is twice the amount of Brooklyn Nets' coach Jason Kidd, and is even more than Fisher's old boss in Oklahoma City in Scott Brooks.
It should also be noted that the 17 year NBA veteran is receiving the same deal that New York's original choice for head coach, Steve Kerr, accepted to head the Golden State Warriors after Mark Jackson was fired.
Ever since Kerr spurned the Knicks for Golden State, Fisher has been rumored as the "heavy favorite" to replace Mike Woodson in New York. It was simply a matter of waiting for Oklahoma City to get eliminated from the playoffs for Phil Jackson to recruit the Thunder guard. However, Jackson apparently couldn't wait that long, and was fined $25,000 for tampering with Fisher while he was still under contract with Oklahoma City.
Regardless of the process it took to get to this point, Derek Fisher is now the 26th head coach in franchise history and will be taking over a team that severely underachieved going 37-45 in 2014. The Knicks also finished 18th within our team power rankings, ending the season with a 46.1 nERD score.
So where does Fisher, Jackson, and the rest of the Knicks organization go from here?
Most head coaches are preparing for the 2014 NBA Draft on June 26th, but unfortunately for New York, they've traded away all of their draft picks for this year. While it's been rumored that Jackson is looking to trade for a second-round pick, he doesn't have many assets that other teams would be interested in.
This doesn't mean it will be an uneventful rest of the offseason for Fisher, Jackson, and the rest of the Knicks' front office though. Superstar Carmelo Anthony is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and I don't think anyone really knows how that one is going to play out. Andrea Bargnani and Raymond Felton had disastrous seasons, and although Bargnani is set to come off the books, New York will do everything it can to try and dump Felton's contract on any team that will listen.
While it certainly will be an uphill climb for Fisher to lead the Knicks back to the playoffs, he does have a few things working on his side. Phil Jackson undoubtedly wanted a young, inexperienced coach to lead New York so that he could have as much influence as possible on the team and he has that in Fisher, a leader on the court who he coached for nine years in Los Angeles.
On top of Jackson's guidance, Fisher is one of the most respected people in the NBA, especially among players. He was elected as president of the Player's Union in 2006 and during the 2011 NBA Lockout, took an extremely active role in effectively voicing the player's position and assisting in the negotiation process.
Should Fisher lead the Knicks to the playoffs, he certainly has the experience to guide them through it. The owner of countless clutch moments in playoff history Fisher has played in an NBA record 259 playoff games, and won a record 161 of those games, along with the five rings he shared with Jackson in Los Angeles.
The future of basketball on the court for the New York Knicks remains an unpredictable mess for now, but for the first time in years, the long-term look in the front office and on the bench is unmistakably clear.