Ex-NBA center recalls Ewing faking injury and playing for Don Nelson in NY

matt-fish-bulletsFormer NBA center Matt Fish was a  1992 second-round selection by the Golden State Warriors, Fish made his NBA debut in 1994 with the Los Angeles Clippers. His rookie season with the Clippers was perhaps his finest, as Fish averaged nearly five points in 14 minutes per game.

He recently recalled his time with the New York Knicks in the mid-90’s, when he played for Don Nelson, who was coaching the Knicks at the time. Fish recalled how he got a call up to the New York Knicks.

“I was extremely excited to get the nod. Don Nelson was the coach for the Knicks at the time and it made sense to be called up and play for Coach Nelson. Four years earlier, in 1992, he drafted me 50th overall, a second round selection to the Golden State Warriors,” Fish said recently in a blog post on SportsBlogs.

“I knew very little back then about the situation going on with the Knicks. I simply thought that it was my turn to get called up to the “BIGS”. I was the No. 1 center in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) and playing good basketball. After playing very well for the Fort Wayne Fury, in Indiana, my chance had come,” Fish said.

Then he went on to say that he caught up with the Knicks in Phoenix.

“The next day, I watched AC Green of the Suns get his teeth knocked out by J.R Reid of the Knicks,” Fish recalled. “The Knicks’ next game was against the L.A. Lakers in the Forum. With Patrick Ewing faking an injury, Herb Williams traded to Toronto and J.R. Reid suspended in the next game due to his elbow, I got to start for the New York Knicks in the Forum, jumping center against Vlade Divac.”

“Long story short, I scored 10 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, a blocked shot and had an assist in 17 minutes,” said Fish (edit: Fish’s statistics slightly differ from those listed on Basketball Reference).

Fish went on to add that his time eventually didn’t come, as after that game he played only two more minutes for the team.

“Back in New York we played against the Golden State Warriors, the team in which I was originally drafted. At the end of the game, the Knicks fans traditionally chant and cheer for the last person on the bench – Me. I remember hearing Madison Square Garden chanting, “We Want Fish”. Unfathomable…,” ex-NBA center noted.

“I got in the game and with only a couple of minutes remaining I scored two points; in Madison Square Garden, playing for the New York Knicks, and the fans approved… that was unreal,” Fish said.

Fish went on to add that the very next day, the Knicks were supposed to play the Clippers. It was 11th day of Fish’s 10-day contract.

“Don Nelson called me over during shoot around and put his large hand on my shoulder and simply said, “Well, you are no longer on the team.  You know how it goes.” Days after, neither was he. It’s funny how things work out,” Fish recalled.

Former NBA center added that coaching in the NBA is indeed a tough job.

“Successful NBA coaches demand respect and complete buy-in from all members on the team, owners and management, including all coaches on the staff, and fans. This is never an easy balancing act,” he said.

After his days with the NY Knicks were over, Fish went on to play for the Denver Nuggets, Washington Bullets and the Miami Heat. Fish played a total of 50 games in NBA (9 started), averaging 3.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg in 10.2 mpg.

Now, Fish is a member of the NBRPA (National Retired Players Association), president of the Phoenix Chapter of NBRPA and publisher for NBRPA’s very own Rebound Magazine.

Former NBA center, speaking about Don Nelson, said that his position with the Knicks started to change, as the season went along.

“Coach Nelson started the season with an 18-6 record, and then hit a rough patch losing 19 of 35. He changed the line-up and made a few trades and the relationship with the players and the coach quickly degenerated into back stabbing, finger pointing and name-calling,” Fish said.

“Coach Nelson had a 3-year $5.1 million contract come to an end that was signed only 8 months earlier,” he added.

As for his time with the Knicks, Fish is thankful, saying “I walked with a few thousand dollars and a memory to last a life-time.”

“I played for the Knicks, and I played well when given the chance. My time with the Knicks was February 25th to March 5th, 1996. Although only a 10-day contract that lasted 11 days, the memory will last a life-time,” he said.


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