If I told you a few months ago that the biggest trade of the 2012 NBA regular season was the Lakers trading Derek Fisher and a first round draft pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for C/F Jordan Hill, would you believe me?

Me neither.

Frankly, I know that I'm a blabbermouth and sometimes I say silly things, but at this point in the postseason, the transaction that ultimately sent Derek Fisher to OKC back in March, turned out to have a much greater bearing on the outcome of the NBA season than most of us realized. 

Fisher's veteran leadership has been invaluable to the young Thunder who, until this season, struggled with closing out series and finishing games.  Now, they are eying an NBA Championship series birth.

(D-Fish has 5 rings, and counting...)

I realized the impact of the "Fisher Effect" on the OKC squad over the last few games of their current series with the Spurs, especially with regard to the play of All-Star PG Russell Westbrook.

To be blunt, Westbrook was terrible in games three and four.  He put up a grand total of 17 points over that 2-game span, and he shot the ball under 30% from the floor.

For a PG that survives off of volume scoring (whatever that is), most experts were waiting to see Westbrook stray away from the Thunder game plan in an effort to get his own game back on track.

I'm not trying to drink the "hater-rade" or anything over here, but we've seen him do this before.  When he gets frustrated, he has a knack for taking quick, ill-advised jumpers in the open court as well as going several possessions without running the Thunder offense.  In fact, he's been benched in games before because of his stubborn play.

Not to defend myself here (I picked the Spurs in 6 games), but the "Westbrook unpredictability factor" was one of the main reasons why I was convinced that the Thunder didn't have a chance against the well-balanced offensive SAS arsenal.  I figured that Tony Parker was going to toy with the 23-year-old, who would return the favor by going one on one with Parker each time down the court, consequently hurting the Thunder offense, and costing them the series.

If Fisher wasn't walking the OKC sideline, this situation might have actually played out word for word.  Instead, Westbrook has surprised us all (at least me), and stayed calm, cool, and collected, sticking with Scotty Brook's game plan, and executing down the stretch.

I know that Westbrook put up only 17 points over games three and four, but what I didn't mention is that the Thunder won both games, and he averaged 7 assists and 2.5 steals over that span, signifying a veteran-like focus on both sides of the ball that I can only imagine had something to do with good ol' D-Fish.

Unlike the Westbrook of old, the "2012 Western Conf. Finals Westbrook" stayed focused and played within the Thunder offense regardless of his shooting numbers, and his patience paid off Monday night with an explosive 23 point, 12 assist, and 4 steal effort, culminating in a game 5 victory in San Antonio giving the Thunder a 3-2 advantage in the series.
They can close the series out on Wednesday:

Obviously I don't have the clearance codes to get into the Thunder huddles or ride the team bus, but when you watch Derek Fisher walk that sideline, you can tell that he is coaching and teaching his young teammates, and as far as I can tell, it's working.

What can I say?

Winning is contagious, and for the record, D-Fish is definitely a winner on and off the court.

Matt Silverston is a columnist for FootBasket. He also runs the basketball blog, Mind of Mattman. You can also follow him on Twitter.


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