The Closer — Starring Rasual Butler, Derek Fisher, and Pizza | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

The Closer — Starring Rasual Butler, Derek Fisher, and Pizza

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Updated: April 4, 2015

New York Knicks Coach Derek Fisher is no stranger to end-of-the-game drama. As a Los Angeles Laker in 2004, Fisher did this with 0.4 seconds left in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals to give his team a one-point victory over the San Antonio Spurs:

Phil Jackson, who was Fisher’s coach when he hit that miraculous shot, is still his boss as president of the Knicks. But instead of controlling his own destiny with the ability to hit clutch shots, Fisher is now forced to rely on his youthful, inexperienced team to provide the type of game-ending drama that he used to be able to produce. Here’s a recent game-ending experience for Fisher’s team:

There was no such drama at the end of Friday night’s Wizards-Knicks game in the Verizon Center. The Knicks bench had managed to shrink the Wizards’ lead from 22 to 10 points in the second quarter of play, but in the fourth quarter, Bradley Beal (five points) along with Kris Humphries (four points and five rebounds) were able to successfully stave off the minor threats to the relatively comfortable lead.

Will Bynum took a 3-point shot for Washington with nine seconds left in the game to narrowly beat the shot clock but he missed. Kris Humphries grabbed the rebound with 4.4 seconds left with hopes of running out the clock, but Ricky Ledo and Cole Aldrich decided to trap him in the corner. Humphries dribbled out of the double-team, found a wide-open Rasual Butler under the basket, and to loosely quote Mark Jackson, “Mommy, there went that man.”

Fisher immediately called timeout and huddled his team up on the court, away from the bench. His Knicks trailed the Wizards by 14 points when that timeout was called, and Comcast SportsNet’s Steve Buckhantz alluded to that point—there was no 14-point play that could have bailed New York out or led to them to victory.

Fisher, however, said after the game that there was a method to his end-of-game timeout madness:

“Regardless of the score, there have been a lot of games that we have not been in several nights. When we are talking to our guys about not playing to score and just playing the game then I think there are appropriate times to take advantage of those opportunities. Tonight was another one. I think it is important to send messages to guys that we don’t give up easy and we keep playing.”

Knicks beat writers Frank Isola (NY Daily News) and Steve Popper (northnewjersey.com) had a decidedly different take on the situation:

At the tail-end of Fisher’s extended timeout session, Wizards forward Drew Gooden could be seen making the trek towards the Knicks’ bench, and being quite chatty in the process. Gooden did not speak on this issue after the game, but Steve Popper was sitting close enough to the situation to offer up this explanation:

Fisher and his team broke the huddle and attempted to run a final play, but Shane Larkin missed a tough 16-foot jump shot. The game ended and the Wizards were victorious, 101-87.

Coach Randy Wittman was too busy talking about his team’s victory over the lowly Knicks, and was never asked about Butler’s last-second dunk and Fisher’s timeout. Coach Fisher was asked about it, and once he got the CoachSpeak about the importance of running end-of-game sets with young players narrative out of the way, he gave an honest answer:

“Some teams run it out. I’ve seen it go both ways. We’re in that position right now. But it won’t always be that way. We’ll have those nights, we’ll have that choice.”

When Fisher was informed that Butler may have dunked that point home to give the Verizon Center fans discounted prices at Papa John’s Pizza, he was not at all amused:

Derek Fisher’s emotions have not exactly been demonstrative during this 14-62 season, so even the slightest bit of post-game emotion is not something that would be lost on the New York area beat writers:

After the game, Rasual Butler and Derek Fisher embraced tightly at center court, before going their separate ways. When I asked Butler about the incident after the game, he was a bit taken aback by Fisher’s comments, but classy as usual:

“That’s my guy, I have a good relationship with him. I definitely wasn’t trying to show them up, I’m not that type of person, I do apologize for that. But they were trapping, and I just kind of got caught up into the play. I thought about it afterwards and it wasn’t the classiest thing to do so my apologies out to him and his team and the fans, because you gotta dribble that one out. We have a relationship beyond basketball, we’ve grown close over the years, so he knows my character and he knows I’m really not that type of guy.”

Rasual took the high road and is all class as usual. But given Fisher’s post-game comments and Knicks forward Quincy Acy’s history with the Wizards back on Christmas Day, one has to wonder if a rivalry, or at least a healthy disdain, is stirring. Or perhaps this is just a reminder that the playoffs need to hurry up and arrive. Either way, any time the never-ending angst of Frank Isola can be worked into a TAI article, it is indeed a good night.

[via @recordsANDradio]

[via @recordsANDradio]

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.