Mavs coach Rick Carlisle just announced team has signed Derek Fisher.— K.C Johnson (@KCJHoop) November 29, 2012
It's a move that few saw coming, but one that makes plenty of sense.
Dallas doesn't have a proven point guard like Fisher. His leadership will be invaluable in Nowitzki's absence, and he is more than capable of mentoring a young floor general like Darren Collison.
What even fewer saw coming, however, was that Fisher would be, in a sense, replacing Collison.
According to Eddie Sefko of DallasNews.com, Fisher will assume the starting point guard duties, not the 25-year-old Collison:
The hope is that Fisher can step in — probably as the eventual starter at point guard — and give Collison, who is 13 years younger than Fisher, the opportunity to learn the position from one of the game’s clutch players.
When Collison had a good game Tuesday in Philadelphia coming off the bench, coach Rick Carlisle said he liked what he saw.
“I loved the way he played in Philly,” said Carlisle, who announced the Fisher news after the Mavericks’ 101-78 blowout loss to Chicago on Wednesday night. “I think that’s a great role for him right now. I think Fisher can help us as a starter. This is a great opportunity for Darren to develop into a true starting point guard in this league.
Fisher can undoubtedly help in Collison's development, but Rick Carlisle's assertion that he will be the starting point guard is less about Fisher himself and more about Dallas' lack of faith in Collison.
The young point man has put up an impressive 12.4 points and a career-best 6.3 assists per game, but he's shooting a career-worst 43.8 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from downtown. Still, those numbers aren't so poor that the Mavericks must bench him in favor of a 17-year veteran who averaged just 5.6 points and 2.7 assists with the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
So no, this doesn't come just down to numbers per say. If it did, Fisher may still be present to help Collison along, but he wouldn't be starting.
What this comes down to is trust—or a lack thereof.
After Dallas began the season 4-1—a span that saw Collison post 16.2 points and 7.2 assists on 56.9 percent shooting from the floor—there was a widespread belief that the young gun could lead the offensive charge for a playoff-caliber team. Since then, however, the Mavericks have gone 3-8, and Collison is averaging just 10.2 points and 5.3 assists on 32.9 percent shooting.
While Collison's statistical decline would be easy to overlook if the team was winning, it's not. The Mavericks went from a surprising powerhouse jostling for divisional position with the San Antonio Spurs to second-to-last place within the Southwest Division.
And only so much of Dallas' recent struggles can be attributed to Nowitzki's absence; the Mavericks can only sing that song for so long after the start they had.
That's why the Fisher signing, coupled with his inevitable starting, is a cut-and-dry indication that the team has elected to put a large part of the blame on Collison. If it didn't feel that way, there would be no plans to bench him.
Don't buy into Carlisle's assertion that Collison is better off the bench either. He had one solid game off the pine, in which he scored 12 points and dished six assists on 45.5 percent shooting. Just one.
One game isn't enough to make any definitive arguments. If it was, player statuses would change on daily basis and Collison's recent performance against the New York Knicks—in which he dropped 19 points and seven assists on 63.6 percent shooting—would have meant the world.
But player statuses, especially that of starters, don't change that frequently and Collison's display against New York apparently meant nothing.
And now the Mavericks have turned to an aging athlete who isn't going to fill up the stat lines by any means, but is someone who's familiar with the art of winning all the same.
That's where all of this stems from: Dallas' doubt that Collison can lead a winning or even competent entity without a superstar to rely on.
The hope is not just that Fisher will be able to assist Collison in his development and direction of the team, but that he will restore order to an offense that ranks 15th in efficiency with 101.1 points per 100 possessions.
Who should the Mavericks be starting at point guard?
So, while we can accept the premise that Carlisle and the Mavericks made this move to benefit Collison, to play to the budding point guard's "strengths," it would be benighted of us to ignore the writing on the wall.
And that writing states Fisher would come off the bench if the Mavericks had any confidence in Collison. It suggests this is less about Fisher's value to the team and more about Collison's supposed inadequacies as a starter.
It makes perfectly clear that Dallas believes a declining Fisher is an upgrade over a younger Collison, while also implying that the Mavericks are actively doing whatever it takes to not put the fate of this team in Collison's hands.
All stats in this article are accurate as of November 29th, 2012.