NEW YORK — Derek Fisher spent parts of 12 seasons as a guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, and he understands that in some parts it is blasphemy to wish good fortune upon the Celtics. But Fisher is the Knicks’ coach now, and he admires Celtics coach Brad Stevens. He also understands that New York’s season is lost.
“I wish them a lot of luck other than tonight,” Fisher said before the Celtics outlasted the Knicks, 96-92, at Madison Square Garden on Friday night. “I know that’s hard to hear coming from a former Laker, to wish the Celtics any luck at all. But I like Brad, so I wish him the luck, and he can spread it around to everybody else.”
Fisher offered praise for Stevens earlier this season, and he had more kind words Friday night.
“I think they’ve done a good job with their group,” Fisher said. “Considering all the changes and to still be in the playoff hunt, I think that says a lot about Brad and what he’s doing with their team.
“I think Brad has done a great job in his transition from being a college coach to an NBA coach and having a lot of question marks about how that transition would go.”
Thomas back in form
When Isaiah Thomas struggled in his return Wednesday after missing eight games with a bruised lower back, Stevens told him that he shouldn’t feel responsible for carrying the team as he did in the 10 games before he was hurt.
But Thomas said that as he regains his rhythm, he will be comfortable resuming his prior role.
“I’m gonna try to get it back as fast as possible to where I can be that guy for the team,” Thomas said. “Hopefully, that happens tonight.”
Friday night was a start. One game after totaling four points and three turnovers, he led the Celtics with 18 points and six assists.
He watched film of the game that night and noticed that he simply was not moving well. He was not in pain; he was mostly worried about reinjuring himself.
But he practiced Thursday and said he moved more fluidly. He said it was the best he had felt since his injury.
“I got a lot more confidence,” Thomas said. “I was able to move, shoot the ball better, and just go out there without even thinking.”
A coach’s son
Celtics guard Evan Turner and Stevens’s young son, Brady, shared a lighthearted moment in the locker room after Friday’s win. Brady Stevens approached Turner and told him that he ranked in the top 25 in statistics.
It was unclear what statistics Brady might have been referring to, but Turner took it from there.
“Thanks,” he said with a smile. “Tell Danny Ainge that.”
After Wednesday’s loss to the Heat, several Celtics acknowledged that the absences of Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside affected their intensity at the game’s start. With Friday’s game coming against the no-name Knicks, Stevens made it clear that Boston cannot afford to let star power — or the lack of it — have any impact.
“That’s something they’ve got to get over,” Stevens said, “and I don’t think that’s something that has been an issue in the past. But if you don’t learn from all the experiences you have in this league, then you’ve got to change your approach, because it really doesn’t matter who’s playing. It matters what happens on that given night.”
Although the Knicks entered Friday with a 14-58 record, Stevens was quick to point out that they defeated the San Antonio Spurs here last week.
Forward James Young was reassigned to the Maine Red Claws on Tuesday, but Stevens hinted Friday that if the rookie plays well in the D-League, he still could be a factor for the Celtics as this season winds down.
“The plan is just to continue to get him opportunities,” Stevens said, “whether those opportunities are in the D-League or if we have a situation with injuries, or he plays great and he works his way back into the rotation here.”
Young played 14 minutes over the previous nine games before being sent to Maine.
“We want to make sure that he’s getting as many reps as possible,” Stevens said.