The Grizzlies fired head coach David Fizdale on Monday, less than 24 hours after he benched Marc Gasol for the final 15 minutes of a home loss to the Nets. Associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who took over for Kevin McHale midseason in Houston two years ago, has been named interim head coach.
The Grizzlies opened the season strong, going 5–2 in October with two wins against the Rockets, but now stand at 7–12 (fourth worst in the West) after losing their eighth straight on Sunday. But the team’s issues go deeper. In addition to losing Mike Conley for an undetermined amount of time to an Achilles injury, Gasol and Fizdale have been on “poor terms” since the summer after “confrontations in practice,” according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. On Sunday, after the benching, Gasol rehashed his frustration in a 15-minute postgame interview.
Fizdale, for what it’s worth, explained that he was merely rolling with the group that led the fourth-quarter comeback. “I’m desperate,” said Fizdale, who was in his second season as head coach after more than a decade as an NBA assistant. “I took a risk. … Not much has been working, so I took a gamble on it.”
This season was expected to be a turning point for Memphis. After letting Zach Randolph and Tony Allen walk this offseason, the Grizzlies seemed to be fully leaning into a post–Grit ’N’ Grind era. But with Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, and Ben McLemore reintegrating themselves after injuries, and with Conley on the shelf, Memphis has struggled to muster much of anything on offense (24th in the NBA).
Does that fall on Fizdale? LeBron James, for one, was willing to make the argument for his former Heat assistant coach:
I need some answers. Feels like my man was a fall guy— LeBron James (@KingJames) November 27, 2017
The team is still waiting for Parsons to earn his max contract (he has yet to play over 25 minutes in a game), and has been forced to start Mario Chalmers in Conley’s absence. If both were healthy, we might not even be talking about Fizdale’s job.