Golf in the summer, went to dinner with each other on the road — so Fish and I were really close.
Here’s Fisher now, via Sports Illustrated, calling Barnes a liar:
As far as Matt goes, to say that we had history before the incident would be an exaggeration. We played together for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2010–11 season, and a couple months in the lockout-shortened 2011–12 season. That’s it. That’s the history.
During that time, we were teammates, and never had any issues. We never had any real relationship off the court, either. Our kids didn’t hang out, our families didn’t interact. There were no birthday parties. There were no post-game dinners. We weren’t friends and we had no mutual friends.
Barnes — who allegedly attacked Fisher for dating Barnes’ estranged wife — has maintained that he and Fisher were friends while teammates. That doesn’t excuse Barnes’ domestic violence, but it does raise questions about whether Fisher crossed ethical lines.
Fisher is now defending himself, saying the Knicks firing him wasn’t a result of his personal issues.
But minimizing his previous bond with Barnes doesn’t pass the smell test. Why would Barnes have lied about that years ago? If Fisher and Barnes weren’t friends and had no mutual friends, how did they end up at a concert together? What does it say about Fisher’s leadership that he could be on a team for two years without a single teammate being friends with Fisher and the other player?
Fisher also doesn’t directly address Knicks players’ reported concern about him sleeping with their significant others.
His defense boils down to a personal guarantee of his character and his version of New York firing him:
When the organization informed me of its decision, the conversation was short. The underlying message was that things weren’t working out the way they had hoped. I thanked management for the opportunity, and that was it.
At no time did anyone at that meeting express to me that stories about my personal life were distracting from the collective task at hand, or — more important — that any of my players had expressed to management that they had lost confidence in me as their coach. Nothing remotely like that was ever brought up or discussed.
As if the Knicks were required to explain the entirety of their thinking to Fisher. Even if we take his account as gospel, he’s not positioned to know precisely why the team fired him.
Wholly, this is an unconvincing case on Fisher’s behalf. It’d help if he had someone other than himself stumping for him.