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Fisher arrives in Utah

Initially stunned by trade, he is now happy with move

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New Jazz guard Derek Fisher smiles at a press conference with owner Larry Miller, in the background, Friday afternoon where he was introduced as the newest member of the team.

New Jazz guard Derek Fisher smiles at a press conference with owner Larry Miller, in the background, Friday afternoon where he was introduced as the newest member of the team.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

Derek Fisher was well-spoken, honest and upfront as can be Friday about the reality of being dealt to the Jazz.

It caught the combo guard, who can play some shooting guard but clearly prefers the point, rather off-guard. It came, in fact, as a downright shock. One that required quite a bit of time with which to come to terms.

And the initial uneasiness about it all has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with working in idiosyncratic Utah.

"The initial reaction to the trade was strange," Fisher said of a swap that become public July 5 and was made official July 12, but was not formally completed until the 31-year-old took a physical exam Friday. "Because I wasn't expecting to be traded."

But Fisher, make no mistake, wanted out of Golden State.

He and his agent even spoke about the possibility of a contract buyout with the Warriors, which instead wound up shipping the veteran combo guard to Utah for three younger guards with contracts that will expire after the coming season — Devin Brown, Keith McLeod and Andre Owens.

"I had expressed some unhappiness at times before with wanting to be a starter and wanting to have a bigger role, because I felt like I was capable of doing more to help the team," the Little Rock, Ark., native said. "But they had basically frozen me out on any type of trade talk. They weren't going to trade me. They felt like I was 'too important.'"

The jolt came when the Warriors traded Fisher anyway, news the father of newborn twins received from "some guy" as he headed to a workout at a California gym.

"I think they respected my wishes in maybe wanting to have a bigger role on the team," said Fisher, who signed with Golden State as a free agent in 2004 following an eight-season, three-championship career with the Los Angeles Lakers. "But when you have Baron Davis at the point guard position and Jason Richardson at the 2-guard position, I'm the odd man out.

"I think (Warriors basketball boss) Chris Mullin and the organization wanted to give me the opportunity to have the role I always wanted to have, and I think the Utah opportunity presented one that was good for them and one that they also saw as good for me — but it wasn't something that had been discussed prior to the deal going down, so that was what really caught me off-guard.

"I thought we were close to getting some other things worked out. I didn't even know they were thinking about trading me. So, that was the surprise — and it took me a while to get over that surprise."

It in fact took a couple weeks' worth of soul-searching as Fisher, who has four years and more than $26 million remaining on his current contract, and his family dealt with the unexpectedly early arrival of a baby son and daughter.

The path to getting there was paved by a somewhat unconventional visit from Jazz basketball boss Kevin O'Connor, who flew to California to meet with Fisher.

"Kevin was kind enough to come in and talk to me face-to-face," he said, "and really explain the purpose for the move — because, from what I could see, Deron Williams (chosen No. 3 overall by Utah in the 2005 NBA Draft) was a guy that was pretty solid at the point-guard position.

"So I kind of saw myself going into another situation where, Am I going to start? Am I going to come off the bench? What opportunity am I gonna have to be really be the player I'm capable of being?

"After Kevin and I talked at length for a couple hours, I felt a little bit better about the situation. But it was still something that was strange to me," Fisher added. "So, my wife and I and my mom, who was there to help with the babies, talked about a number of different things for the last several days.

"We all got to a place where I was so appreciative of what (Jazz owner) Larry (Miller) and Kevin and the coaching staff saw in me that, two days ago, the hesitancy and the reluctance ... subsided."

Now, Fisher seems to have genuinely accepted his fate.

"I'm OK with it now," he said. "I'm more than OK with it now. I'm excited.

"The world is open in terms of opportunities and what I can do as a member of this team, so I don't feel backed into this in any way. This is a great opportunity for me. It really is."

Certain issues, however, remain unresolved.

Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is not one to promise anything to anyone, and Fisher is quite cognizant of that fact. Yet he seems willing to make it work.

"I've been made no promises — nothing under the table about how many minutes I'm going to play or what role I'm going to have," Fisher said. "I respect that, and I expect that, because that's what I expect from myself. I don't expect any favors, I don't expect any handouts. I don't expect to play just because of the type of contract I have. I expect to come and earn whatever it is the coaches feel like I deserve — if that's starting, if that's coming off the bench.

"What it comes back to is 'whatever it takes for the team to win.'"

It's possible Fisher will serve not only as a mentor to Williams, but also play alongside him at shooting guard — even though Fisher sees himself as a point.

"I'm sure at times Deron and I will play together," Fisher said. "There may be some times when I'm starting and he's not, or he's starting and I'm not.

"I don't know if I can be the 2 (shooting guard) that the team needs," he added, "but I can be 'the player' that this teams needs. And not just 'the' player in terms of taking anything away from anybody else."

O'Connor concurs: "We think Coach Sloan does a great job with matchups, and we're going to take advantage of (Fisher's) ability to be 'a basketball player' and a guard. ... I don't want to pigeonhole anybody in a position."

Nor does Fisher want anyone to think he feels coming to Utah is for the birds.

"This is exciting," he said, "because it presents new beginnings, it presents new challenges.

"This organization has always stood for professionalism, and doing things the right way. That's what I've been about my entire career. And I think the synergy that we can create is going to be not just good, but great."

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com