'Experienced' Fisher introduced, accepts Knicks challenge

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Derek Fisher was never the best player, certainly not the tallest or quickest.

But whether on the court with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, or across the bargaining table from David Stern and Adam Silver, he never feared taking the shot, speaking his mind, or doing whatever else was expected of a leader.

So he has every attribute the Knicks need — except experience as a coach, the job they hired him to do.

"But I am experienced," Fisher said Tuesday. "Basketball is a game that I am experienced in playing, understanding, leading in, guiding in, helping another group of people achieve the greatest gift in the world as a professional athlete, and that's being a champion. That I have experience in, and that's the experience that I plan on sharing with these players, sharing with this organization."

That's what made Phil Jackson turn to one of his most trustworthy former players for his first coaching hire. Just days after finishing his 18th season, the 39-year-old Fisher was tabbed to replace Mike Woodson, whom Jackson fired in his first major move as team president.

Fisher won five championships playing for Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers and was known for his knack for hitting clutch postseason shots while playing an NBA-record 259 playoff games. But some of his most important work came in the locker room, just as it will now.

"He made some incredible shots in the playoffs, always stepped into the vacuum of leadership, but more than anything else it was the ability of Derek to speak the truth from what the sense of the group was," Jackson said during a press conference at the Knicks' training center in Greenburgh, New York.

The Knicks went 37-45 and missed the playoffs, just a year after winning the Atlantic Division and advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Jackson, who declined an original offer to coach the team, was instead hired to run the front office in March and fired Woodson the week after the season ended.

He was seeking someone familiar with the triangle offense and someone with little or no coaching experience that he could teach. The Knicks had nearly closed a deal to hire Steve Kerr, who instead left the TNT broadcast table to take the Golden State Warriors' coaching job.

Jackson then turned his attention to Fisher, even getting fined $25,000 last week when he was too open about his interest in the point guard who was still under contract with the Thunder.

Terms of Fisher's deal were not released, but a person with knowledge of the details said it was worth $25 million over five years — the same length of Jackson's contract and about the same deal Kerr signed with the Warriors.

YOUR DAILY STERLING PLOT TWIST

Shelly Sterling's attorney will be in probate court Wednesday to seek an emergency order for a hearing so a judge can confirm her authority to sell the Clippers, according to an individual familiar with the matter.

Shelly Sterling brokered what would be a record-breaking $2 billion deal with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to sell the team after her husband and co-owner Donald Sterling made racist comments to a girlfriend that were recorded and publicized. The NBA moved swiftly to oust him as an owner.

But Donald Sterling has vowed not to sell and is suing the NBA for $1 billion.

Donald Sterling said in a statement released by his attorney Tuesday that he's fighting for the fundamental rights of Americans against the NBA which he calls "a band of hypocrites and bullies" and "despicable monsters."

His statement is titled in capital letters and underlined: "WHY I AM FIGHTING THE NBA? THE NBA WANTS TO TAKE AWAY OUR PRIVACY RIGHTS AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH."

Shelly Sterling contends she is the sole trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the team. Donald Sterling was stripped as co-trustee after two neurologists last month determined he was suffering from dementia and "mentally incapacitated" under the trust's conditions, according to a person who is familiar with the trust and the medical evaluations but could not speak publicly.

"The next step for the league is to, frankly, stand back and allow this dispute between Donald and Shelly Sterling to play itself out..." NBA commissioner Adam Silver said during halftime of Tuesday's Finals Game 3 between the Heat and Spurs. "This is really now a dispute between the Sterlings. We're on the sidelines."

The aim of Sterling's court bid is to have a judge confirm provisions of the family trust to ensure the Ballmer sale moves forward without a hitch. Donald Sterling has the right to present his side at any hearing and appeal any decision.

His attorney Maxwell Blecher said a representative for Donald Sterling will likely be at any hearing but declined to comment further Tuesday. Sterling's attorneys have called the idea that he is mentally incapacitated "absurd."

Representatives for Shelly Sterling and Pierce O'Donnell declined to comment.

On Monday, Donald Sterling pulled his support from the Ballmer deal and issued a one-page statement titled "The Team is not for Sale."

He instructed his attorneys to prosecute the lawsuit against the NBA that alleges the league violated his constitutional rights by relying on information from an "illegal" recording that publicized racist remarks he made to a girlfriend. It also said the league committed a breach of contract by fining Sterling $2.5 million and that it violated antitrust laws by trying to force a sale.

"I have decided that I must fight to protect my rights," Donald Sterling said. "While my position may not be popular, I believe that my rights to privacy and the preservation of my rights to due process should not be trampled."

NBA general counsel Rick Buchanan has called Donald Sterling's lawsuit "entirely baseless."

"Since it was his wife Shelly Sterling, and not the NBA, that has entered into an agreement to sell the Clippers, Mr. Sterling is complaining about a set of facts that doesn't even exist."

Donald Sterling had agreed to ink the deal and drop the suit last week assuming "all their differences had been resolved," his attorneys said. But individuals close to the negotiations who weren't authorized to speak publicly said he decided to not sign the papers after learning the NBA won't revoke its lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine.

"There was never a discussion involving the NBA in which we would modify Mr. Sterling's penalty in any way whatsoever. Any suggestion otherwise is complete fabrication," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said.

Donald Sterling's comments to V. Stiviano included telling her to not bring black people to Clippers games, specifically mentioning Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. They resulted in outrage from the public and players and even prompted President Barack Obama to comment on what he called Sterling's "incredibly offensive racist statements."

Donald Sterling said in his statement that he was "extremely sorry for the hurtful statements" he made privately but said them out of anger and jealousy and didn't intend for them to be public.

CAVS LOOK FOR RIGHT PRICE

Mark Price's limited head-coaching experience may not matter to the Cavaliers.

A four-time All-Star point guard during nine seasons with Cleveland, Price interviewed Tuesday with the Cavs, who fired Mike Brown nearly a month ago and have been on a twisting search for his successor. Price spent last season as an assistant in Charlotte and Hornets coach Steve Clifford believes the 50-year-old is ready to be a head coach.

Price's only head coaching jobs were in Australia in 2005 and with Orlando's summer league team.

There's been a recent trend of NBA teams signing unproven coaches. The hirings of Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher — former guards without extensive head coaching resumes — could prompt the Cavaliers to take a shot with Price.

Price is the sixth known candidate to meet with the Cavs.

FILIPINO FAVORITE IS ...

Manny Pacquiao is getting into Erik Spoelstra's line of work.

Pacquiao is taking over as a basketball coach in the Philippines Basketball Association. The longtime boxing champion was introduced this week as the coach of a new Kia team in that league, with the season opening in October.

And even though Spoelstra is wildly popular in the Philippines, the coach of the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat might have just lost his title as that nation's favorite basketball coach.

"Well, I'm not taking a boxing job," said Spoelstra, a Filipino-American who has close ties to his mother's homeland. "But I know he's a huge basketball fan, so it doesn't surprise me."

Pacquiao's love for basketball is no secret, and he told reporters in the Philippines this week that he was taking the coaching position seriously.

"A great responsibility," Pacquiao said.

That being said, his next fight is scheduled for November, or shortly after the PBA season begins. The opponent remains unclear, though there's speculation that it could be a fifth bout against Juan Manuel Marquez.

Pacquiao has been fighting professionally since age 16 and is 56-5-2 in his brilliant career. Spoelstra is planning to visit the Philippines this summer and might cross paths with Pacquiao.

But a Spoelstra-Pacquiao coaching matchup is probably not going to happen. Spoelstra simply shook his head at that farfetched notion.

''I'll hopefully be able to see him this summer, see what's up," Spoelstra said. "Maybe I'll check out a practice."

Contributor: The Associated Press

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Sporting News editorial team