HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Fresh off remaining as players union president during All-Star weekend, Derek Fisher’s first initiative apparently was to re-instate himself on an NBA team.
Not with the struggling Dallas Mavericks, the team he bailed on in December and the only one willing to sign him in late November. Fisher signed Monday with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the championship contender he joined late last season that conveniently again has an opening for a veteran point guard with a history of making clutch shots.
If the Rolling Stones had first met Derek Fisher, they never would have recorded “You can’t always get what you want.”
Fisher just keeps on getting.
The 38-year-old southpaw who won five titles in two stints playing alongside Kobe Bryant, signed a veteran’s minimum deal with the Mavs on Nov. 29 on the heels of Dallas benching Darren Collison. Fisher immediately took over as the starter until he asked for and received his release on Dec. 22 so he could spend more time with his family, as he explained in a prepared statement.
Apparently with 26 games left before the start of the playoffs, family concerns are no longer an issue for Fisher, who wore No. 6 for the Mavs because, as he said, he joined them on a quest for a sixth title. “This is not a pit stop,” Fisher told his new Dallas teammates.
Lo and behold, he will also wear No. 6 for the Thunder. He will make his second OKC debut in as many seasons at home Wednesday against the New Orleans Hornets.
So how do the jilted Mavs feel about this turn of events?
Owner Mark Cuban did not reply to multiple emails on Monday, but one league source said the best way to describe the mood of the Dallas front office is “agitated.” The source said that Fisher and his representatives never contacted the Mavs during his decision-making process to discuss a possible return to Dallas, the team that, in good faith, initially signed him.
The source said that Fisher’s departure before Christmas seemed to come out of the blue. Of course, in 2007 when Fisher played for the Utah Jazz, he did have a family emergency in the playoffs. His 11-month-old daughter suffered from cancer in her left eye and required surgery in New York. After the playoffs — where Fisher had an iconic moment in the West semifinals — Fisher asked the Jazz to release him from his contract so he could concentrate on finding the best care for his daughter. After saying, “life for me outweighs the game of basketball,” Fisher would soon sign a three-year deal to return to the Lakers.
The Mavs (25-30) are still determined to make a playoff charge and could use Fisher now just as they did in late November when they were 7-7. Collison has been up and down and coach Rick Carlisle still often turns to 37-year-old, NBA D-League call-up Mike James to run the offense in crunch time.
Dallas is 4 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot. The club’s brass, coaches and players surely can’t help but wonder if that might be different had Fisher stayed. The Mavs have lacked late-game execution all season. They’re 1-8 in overtime games, 0-1 with Fisher; 2-6 in games decided by three points or less, 1-1 with Fisher.
They were 5-4 overall with him, although in his final game, a win over Philadelphia, Fisher strained a tendon in his right knee and played just five minutes.
Four days later he was out the door. In the same press release that he explained his decision to quit, he said the injury would keep him out only about two weeks.
His resurfacing for the stretch run lends credence to an interesting notion first dished up by FoxSports.com’s Jason Whitlock in a scathing column prior to All-Star weekend. Whitlock suggested that Fisher’s sole intention when he signed with the Mavs — or with any team that would sign him — was to make himself eligible to maintain his position as NBPA president. If Fisher remained out of the league, he couldn’t lead the union.
The following day at the NBPA meeting in Houston, Fisher announced the ouster of former union executive director Billy Hunter, just as Fisher remained on as president.
Once a politician, apparently always a politician.
Let the quest for title No. 6 officially begin.