Fisher goes on the defensive

Derek Fisher is not exactly known for his defense these days.

The 37-year-old president of the NBPA is a rather slow-footed player that lacks the lateral quickness to keep up with the penetration skills of the league's younger quarterbacks.

That doesn't mean the wily veteran has forgotten how to defend, however. He's rarely out of position and uses his experience and guile to make things as difficult as possible for any opponent.

Of course, none of us are watching Fisher on the court these days. The NBA was supposed to tip off on November 1, but instead of watching banners drop and rings being handed out in Big D, it's all about reading the tea leaves coming from David Stern, Adam Silver, Billy Hunter and Fisher.

Lately some of those tea leaves have tarred-and-feathered Fisher as a bit of a Benedict Arnold, a traitor to his brethren intent on working out a "bad" back- room deal with Stern.

Fisher issued a statement on Tuesday night taking direct aim at multiple articles posted on that accuses him of being co-opted by the shrewd Stern during labor negotiations.

Jason Whitlock asserts that a major rift has developed between Fisher and Hunter, the NBPA's executive director, over the much talked about Basketball Related Income revenue split.

Hunter has held the line at 52.5 percent of BRI while Fisher, according to Whitlock, is trying to backdoor the 50-50 split that the owners desperately want for some kind of unnamed quid pro quo from Stern.

Stern issued a denial that he secretly met with Fisher on Tuesday while Hunter sent a letter to the NBPA saying that he had no issues with Fisher.

That wasn't enough for the Lakers veteran, though, and he formally demanded a retraction, accusing FOXSports and Whitlock of defaming him through his publicist Jamie Wior.

"The statements made in recent articles on the Fox Sports website are inexcusable," Fisher said in a statement.

"Among the many baseless accusations, to allege that I am working with the league for my personal gain is unequivocally false. The implication that I am doing anything but working in the best interests of the players is disgusting, defamatory and a flat out lie. I have issued a letter through my attorneys demanding a retraction for the libelous and defamatory stories the site and reporter have continued to publish.

"Regardless of the media reports, the Players Association, our staff, Executive Director and Executive Committee are unified and working side by side to serve our players.

"There should be no more distractions. We must continue to negotiate a fair deal for our players."

Really this is all about semantics and he said, he said accusations with both parties at fault.

Whitlock is an excellent reporter and it's likely Fisher is in the middle of a divide and conquer strategy by Stern. Whether Fisher understands that or not is debatable, but pushing for a 50-50 split of BRI doesn't automatically suggest Fisher is in the "back pocket" of Stern as Whitlock asserted.

Isn't it at least conceivable that Fisher thinks that's the best deal that the players are going to get?

Calling it a "bad deal" as Whitlock suggests is perception. Sure, compared to the previous collective bargaining agreement, it's a major downgrade, but compared to the rest of the business world, which is using a sour economy to slash everything, the players are still way ahead of the game.

That said, pointing out that Hunter is the "labor leader" and Fisher the "journeyman point guard" is arguably a cheap shot by Whitlock, but certainly not out of bounds and the farthest thing from libel. Hunter is the experienced negotiator here and Fisher is the guy that should be running plays next to Kobe Bryant.

At the end of the day this latest dustup is much ado about nothing, a minor distraction rooted in ego and hubris and a microcosm of why a deal that's probably 95 percent done can't be pushed over the finish line.