Derek Fisher, a Utah hero last spring during the Jazz's improbable run to the Western Conference finals, returned to EnergySolutions Arena on Friday night.
And he was treated rudely.
He didn't deserve it, either.
Sure, he now wears a Los Angeles Lakers uniform which is not popular to Jazz fans, to put it mildly. But Utah fans could have shown some class by greeting Fisher with polite cheers during pregame introductions like they do for ex-Utes like Andre Miller and Andrew Bogut for his one year of solid service for the Jazz. Then, during the game itself, they could have treated him like any another Laker who doesn't have "BRYANT" printed on his back with indifference.
Instead, Jazz fans booed every time Fisher touched the basketball.
It wasn't all the Jazz fans in attendance, of course, but enough people in attendance gave enough Bronx cheers for it to be audible to all including an ESPN television audience.
"To be honest with you," Fisher said, "I'm choosing not to really comment about the crowd reaction, I guess."
But it had to hurt him at least a little. Yes, he gets paid millions to play a child's game. And yes, he asked to be released from his Jazz contract only to sign shortly thereafter with the hated Lakers. But he is a human who has feelings and everyday problems to deal with.
Of course, not the least of those trials is the rare form of eye cancer his baby daughter, Tatum, is fighting. He says he asked out of his contract with the Jazz to be closer to specialists who could help his daughter.
It was a noble statement by Fisher to give up some money he would have gotten from the Jazz to play for less with the Lakers in order to be a better father.
But apparently some Jazz fans don't really buy his reasoning. Otherwise, they certainly wouldn't boo a man for sacrificing for one of his children, would they?
Some Jazz fans must feel like Fisher was just making an excuse to get out of Utah.
While I choose to believe Fisher's stated reasons for leaving are sincere, even if they weren't, he didn't deserve to be booed.
Fisher, by all accounts, was a good teammate and a leader on the court and off for the young Jazz last season. He taught young Jazz stars such as Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer how to act with class through his example.
If that weren't enough contribution, Fisher's leaving has made the Jazz a better team.
Williams is now the undisputed leader on the court for the Jazz, meaning that aspect of Fisher's personality is no longer needed. Plus, at 6-1, he was a defensive liability trying to defend shooting guards in the NBA.
If Fisher were still around, he'd still be getting the lion's share of the shooting guard and backup point guard minutes. Ronnie Brewer's development would still be on hold.
The fact is, Fisher is exactly what the Jazz needed last year, but he was expendable this season. By asking out of his contract, the Jazz saved some money and now have the chance to develop young players such as Brewer, C.J. Miles and Morris Almond.
Fisher did the Jazz a favor both this year and last.And that should be applauded not booed by Jazz fans.
E-mail: [email protected]