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It’s something that, years later, we still don’t get. Why did two different NBA teams become upset when either an overpaid (Utah Jazz) or terribly performing (Dallas Mavericks) Derek Fisher decide to leave their squad under shaky circumstances? Two times in Fisher’s playing career he has begged out of a contract under the auspices of wanting to be around his family, leaving money on the table, only to resurface later on a championship contender.
When Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was asked about Fisher’s return to Dallas as a New York Knick head coach on Wednesday evening, Mark still decided to a jab at someone who so terribly wronged him in 2012-13. From Ian Begley at ESPN New York:
Cuban was asked if he was concerned about Fisher’s commitment to the struggling Knicks, who have dropped 10 of 12.
"I'm more concerned with his health and welfare. I know how hard it is for him to fly and travel and be away,” Cuban said sarcastically.
To remind: Derek Fisher shot 35 percent for the Dallas Mavericks that season, and he turned the ball over on over 19 percent of the possessions he used up. That’s a lot for a butterfinger’ed big man, much less a “trusted, steady veteran point guard.” Why the Oklahoma City Thunder even wanted him was still a bit of a surprise.
Whether or not this made his Mavericks better by subtraction is not Cuban’s point, however. Take a look at his quote from the time:
“It's not so much what he did, but how he did it.”
The Mavericks were a middling squad in Dec. 2012, when they decided to grant Fisher’s release so that he could rehab a knee injury close to his family. Fisher didn’t appear to be working close to home quarters when he negotiated his way toward to the top of the National Basketball Players Association food chain, replacing the disgraced Billy Hunter. Soon after that, he signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team placed very, very far away from his family.
In Fisher’s initial statements upon replacing Hunter, he noted that the NBPA would have to become more transparent with its machination, in order to build a healthy and communicative trust between the players and the owners and NBA. Those words belied every move he made following his release from the Mavericks. Fisher was under absolutely no obligation to let Mark Cuban or anyone else know that he was fighting to become NBPA head and eventually a reserve for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but any sort of communication would have been better off than Cuban hearing about the move while staring at the Twitter application on his phone.
Fisher then stayed in Oklahoma City for another year as a player before joining the New York Knicks as head coach. The head coach of a team on the exact opposite coast from where his family is reported to live.
Is Cuban right to be still smarting, albeit sarcastically, nearly two years after waiving Fisher? Was he right to call for Mavs fans to boo the little-used guard upon his return to Dallas? That’s up to you and your perceptions of appropriate tact to decide.
Fisher’s Knicks have lost 12 of 16 to start the season.
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