The pragmatist's guide to the Derek Fisher hiring

Christian Petersen

Derek Fisher is getting paid way too much money to coach the Knicks...how much should you not care?

The New York Knicks have a head basketball coach, and his name is Scrooge McDuck Derek Fisher.

Many reactions to the announcement of Fisher's hiring focused less on who he is and more on how much he's going to make. There was more than a hint of outrage the veteran point guard could land a five-year, $25 million contract without a whit of coaching experience. He doesn't deserve that kind of deal! He's not worth it!

Deserve. Worth. Interesting words. I doubt anyone would argue that Fisher is worth that kind of deal as a coach. Forget for a moment that a coach's salary doesn't count against the salary cap -- there is, on a basic level, something inherently wrong about giving someone a deal he hasn't earned.

Of course, most of the people complaining about the fairness of Fisher's contract are not Knicks fans. They usually follow other teams, which means they are used to the uniform sense of basketball morality laid down by most of the rest of the league. They have grown up judging contracts based on their real-world, logical value. That sounds like a wonderful world. I wish I could live in that world. But that is not MSG.

The Knicks are owned by the son of one of the richest men in America -- a man who grew up with no concept of value or consequence. He doesn't pay for things based on what they're worth; he pays based on pure, unchecked desire. He doesn't judge employees based on performance; he judges them based on whether or not he likes them personally.

This is the world of the Knicks fan. You must adjust your thinking or lose your mind. There are no more moralist fans, standing fast to their strict codes of right and wrong. If you cared that much about overpaying Fisher, how could you have possibly survived the past 15 years?

There are really only two kinds of Knicks fans that remain. First is the Patty Hurst fans (also known as the Knicks fan police) -- people brainwashed by their captors into defending them against the "haters" no matter what they do. The second group is the pragmatists -- those willing to relax their standards for the sake of their sanity. For the pragmatists, the only questions that matter on this Fisher deal are "Is it as stupid as their previous moves?" and "Is there the slightest possibility this will work?"

Let's stop for a moment and ponder where the Knicks are coming from. In the last 12 months...

  • The Knicks traded an ungodly amount of draft picks for CAA client Andrea Bargnani, flying in the face of all reason.
  • Competent GM Glen Grunwald was forced aside in favor of CAA-backed Steve Mills -- a holdover from the dark days of the Anucha Browne-Sanders trial and a man with zero experience running a basketball team.
  • The organization bent over backwards to accommodate CAA client (and scrub extraordinaire) Chris Smith, which made them even more of a laughingstock.
  • Mike Woodson, who seemingly tripped over his dick into a winning formula for the Knicks in 2012-13, willfully abandoned that same formula while paying lip service to defense, rebounding, East-bigness and Beno-blaming. The team slipped from 18th in defensive rating to 24th, while putting together some of the worst crunch-time offense in NBA history. The coach, who dumped his longtime agent for CAA the previous year, managed to hold onto his job throughout the season.

Yes, Phil Jackson got a haul for one of "his guys." But Derek Fisher will be held accountable by perhaps the greatest coach in NBA history...not Worldwide Wes and the rhythm section for The Eagles. He will be judged by his ability to build a cohesive, functioning team. It's really hard for me to put too high a price of James Dolan's money on that.

Now, the real financial battle begins. Jackson and Fisher will need to convince Carmelo Anthony to take less money to stay in New York. Some might argue that their high salaries might incur some jealousy in Melo, but I personally don't buy it. The guy is an adult. Besides, would he feel more comfortable taking less money and playing for the Woodson/Mills regime, or two well-compensated, well-respected basketball minds who have a combined 18 rings between them? If Melo's leaving the Knicks, it won't be due to Fisher's bank account.

Before Jackson and Fisher can bring a championship to New York, they must first restore some semblance of sanity. Getting their star forward to buy in at a cap-friendly rate would be the responsible move; letting him walk if he demands the max would be equally responsible. Either way, they will have pulled off the most logical roster decision in recent franchise history.

That's why they get paid the big bucks.

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