Fisher: This is about the players' interests, not me and Billy Hunter
Derek Fisher wants an outside review of the NBPA's business and finances
Billy Hunter and the NBPA board have responded by seeking Fisher's ouster
Fisher says he won't quit, adding that he is looking out for the players
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A long day was getting longer by the minute for Derek Fisher, the last of the Oklahoma City Thunder players to leave the visitors locker room after their latest win late Friday night.
His job as a player was done, meaning it was time for the 16-year veteran and president of the National Basketball Players Association to talk about the off-court action that isn't quite as fun these days. Fisher is under siege from executive director Billy Hunter and the union's executive committee, the two parties pairing up to push for his resignation this week after he pushed for an outside review of the NBPA's business practices and finances.
The reaction was swift and severe, and it remains to be seen whether the bylaws allow for Fisher, who has made it clear he won't resign, to be unseated if he refuses to go. Yet as Fisher discussed his situation at length with a small group of media after the game, he raised a fair question that he's hoping will be answered in the coming weeks: Why would he go to all this trouble -- to invite the criticism, endanger his stellar reputation and distract a team that is vying for a championship -- without a good reason?
"I ... challenge people to think about why I would choose consciously to do that," Fisher said. "Normally at this time of year, the one thing that I've always wanted to concentrate solely on is helping lead the team to a championship.
"If this was just about me, that's what I would do. I would just concentrate on basketball. But because this is bigger than me, this is bigger than any one person. It's really about all players and what's best for our guys, then I'm willing to take the hits and some of the scrutiny that will come with some of the decisions I make."
The allegations, according to NBPA vice president Maurice Evans in an interview with the Washington Times, range from misappropriation of funds to the way union decisions were handled during the lockout to Hunter being guilty of nepotism. While Hunter's backers are quick to point out that nepotism exists throughout the NBA, his critics see it as excessive in his case.
His daughter, Robyn, and daughter-in-law, Megan Inaba, are on the NBPA's staff, while his son, Todd, of Prim Capital Corp in Cleveland, has been retained to run the NBPA's Players Financial Awareness Program and his daughter, Alexis, was used as outside counsel during the lockout. And while Fisher and Hunter had a falling out during the lockout that almost stayed quiet until the end, Fisher insists this isn't about them. Fisher has two more seasons left on his term as president, while Hunter -- a former U.S. Counsel who started at the union in 1996 and reportedly earns $2.4 million annually -- has a contract that runs through 2016.
"It's not about personal allegations or pointing fingers at any one person," he said. "It's truly about the truth in general. And that truth could call into question everyone, including my leadership and including other people who may work at the players association.
"It's not just about Billy Hunter and myself. There are staff members at the PA that have committed their careers, who will be reviewed, and all of our business practices and finances. I just think it's the right thing to do, considering how much is generally at stake going forward, and that we shouldn't just wait until there's a collective bargaining agreement to negotiate to try and rally our troops. We should find out how to better do our jobs so that six or seven years from now, we're in a stronger, more educated, more efficient position to negotiate our players the best way we can."
In an NBPA statement to the media on Friday announcing the executive committee's 8-0 vote to oust Fisher, it was also noted that the union had conducted annual financial audits and business reviews "following the negotiation of the 1999 and 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreements." Another business review would be conducted "in a timely manner," the statement read, "with the support of the entire executive committee."
Yet Fisher has been pushing for the use of the law firm, Patton Boggs, and it remains to be seen how many players will forge ahead with him in this fight. Thunder forward Nick Collison, who isn't the team representative but was far and away the most active member from Oklahoma City during the lockout, said he supports Fisher.
"With the way the lockout went for us, I don't think it'd be perceived as a win for players -- by any means -- among most players and among most people who followed it," he told SI.com. "So I think it would be definitely beneficial to take a look at our union, how we're doing business and how things are run and see if we can make improvements.
"I definitely think that Derek has earned at least the right to have reservations, if he does. And for the next step to be to try to get rid of him a day or two later after asking to take a look at how we do business doesn't seem right to me."
If anything, Collison added, it only makes him more suspicious.
"The whole idea that it's possible to get rid of him after a day or two speaks to the need for more transparency in how we do business and how the union is set up," he continued. "A swift action and all of a sudden to try to get rid of Derek -- if that's what happening -- doesn't seem right, I don't think, to anybody. He's elected by the players, and I think there definitely needs to be more conversation to what's going on with this issue."
Durant opted not discuss the topic at length, saying only "I hope it all works out." Guard Russell Westbrook, who Collison said is the backup team representative, said "I don't know what's going on" before indicating he wanted to talk to Fisher more before forming an opinion. Kings team representative Chuck Hayes told The Sacramento Bee he "totally disagrees" with the push to force Fisher out.
Yet no one was as candid as Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, who made his feelings known that Fisher has the players' best interests at heart.
"My opinion is this: D-Fish's job is to protect the players, and that's what he's doing," Perkins said. "He just did something that they hadn't seen before. Everybody is watching everybody else, but who's looking out and making sure they're doing their jobs.
"He did what he's supposed to do -- protect the players. And if you've got nothing to hide, you shouldn't want to push him out if he's just doing his job. Whatever you're hiding in the dark, it's going to come to light."
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