By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Derek Fisher is back in Oklahoma City, signing with the Thunder on Monday and potentially returning to the court by Wednesday.
The sole goal for the 15-year veteran seems simple. Fisher wants another — and maybe final — shot at his sixth NBA title, so he latched onto one of the few teams with a legit shot at hoisting the trophy in June.
No harm there. Happens all the time. The feeling from OKC’s side was mutual, the familiarity was there and the pairing made sense.
But it’s not what lies ahead of Fisher that has been thrown into question today. It’s what lies immediately behind him, in the wake of his brief tenure and abrupt departure from the Dallas Mavericks earlier this season.
Fisher signed with Dallas in November, even earning a starting job and contributing role (8.6 points and 3.4 assists per game) by early December.
But a minor knee injury in his ninth game forced him to the sidelines and soon after, citing a desire to spend more time with his family, Fisher was voluntarily waived.
But his former teammates, in comments to ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon earlier today, seemed a bit skeptical
From MacMahon’s story:
…However, the suspicion among his temporary Dallas teammates was that the five-time NBA champion would join a contender later this season.
“It wasn’t a big surprise,” one Mavs veteran said. “We expected him to end up with the Lakers or OKC.”
Added another Dallas veteran, while rolling his eyes: “Good for him. Good for him.”
Also, in an NBA.com Hang Time blog, league insider Jeff Caplan described the “agitated” reaction from Dallas’ front office:
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.
If anything, these comments bring a bit more credence to a pre-All Star break column by Jason Whitlock, FoxSports.com’s opinionated and occasionally controversial writer, who detailed the jumbled mess that became of the NBA Players Union, ending in the firing of executive director Billy Hunter.
In it, Whitlock, aided by a candid interview with former NBA player Maurice Evans, speculated that Fisher only used the Mavericks as a way to keep his position as union president.
From Whitlock’s column:
Fisher is also not in the league. But, thanks to a brief stint with the Dallas Mavericks in December, Fisher is allowed to maintain his position as union president. Yep, the 38-year-old Fisher signed with the Mavs in late November, played nine games and then decided he needed to spend more time with his family. It was all rather convenient. Too convenient, according to Evans.
“They were able to circumvent (the system) by putting him on a team for a day and a half so he could be reinstated as president,” Evans claimed. “I don’t know who (are) the powers that be to put that in place, but D. Fish was only on the Mavericks this year so they could pull this stunt off, so they could get Billy Hunter out of office.”
What does it all mean? Do I believe Fisher joined the Mavs under false pretenses, with an ulterior motive? I’m not sure and I’m not sure it even matters.
He seemed to play hard during his time in Dallas. His injury seems legitimate. And his conditional release was worked out with the front office.
So it’s his right to then explore free agency. And in this introductory Q&A with reporters on Tuesday, Fisher (now healed) seemed to have legitimately enjoyed his time away with family and talked as if he felt refreshed for the impending stretch run.
But it’s certainly an interesting storyline, spicing up the recently one-sided I-35 rivalry a bit (OKC has won nine consecutive against Dallas). And who knows, if the Mavs can dig out of their current hole (10th in the West, 4.5 games out of eighth place), we could get an intriguing first round series.