Associated Press

In surprise move, Grizzlies fire David Fizdale as head coach

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Memphis has lost eight games in a row, six of them without Mike Conley at point guard. There was plenty of consternation in Memphis after it lost to Brooklyn at home Sunday, in a game where Marc Gasol was benched for the fourth quarter — Gasol did not like that at all — and coach David Fizdale was clearly searching for any combination that worked.

Still, it was a surprise Monday when the Grizzlies fired Fizdale, as first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The benching of Gasol seems to have played a key role in the change.

Bickerstaff was 37-34 after taking over as the Houston coach during the 2015-16 season with the Rockets (taking over 11 games in). We’ll see if he keeps the job, but does anyone feel comfortable that current Grizzlies management will make the right decision moving forward?

Fizdale was 50-51 over two seasons in Memphis, but that belies a good coaching job where he had worked to get this team to pick up the tempo and play a more modern style. He got the Grizzlies to the postseason, where he famously had his “take that for data” rant.

The problem was, he was never given the roster to play a modern style, and the “grit ‘n grind” roster was old and not working well anymore. Then this season came the injuries — Conley is out, and then there is the injury to back up center Brandan Wright, forcing Marc Gasol had to play more minutes and take on much more of the offense. He struggled in that role, shooting 39.4 percent over this last 10 games. Add to that that Memphis is in the middle of its toughest stretch of the season and losses had to have been expected.

The problems in Memphis are not on Fizdale, but rather a team trying to hold on to a”grit ‘n grind” era rather than rebuild when it was time.

This was a thin roster that couldn’t afford injuries, yet it has had some key ones. This is a roster in need of shooting and more athletes, but strapped for money this summer they didn’t add them. The Grizzlies offense has struggled as a result and been bottom 10 all season — they get a lot of shots at the rim but only one NBA team takes a higher percentage of its shots from the midrange, and the Grizzlies still are not a good three-point shooting team (32.3 percent as a team, 29th in the league). Bottom line, they don’t have enough shooting. Or to put it another way, Fizdale doesn’t have the piece he needs.

Throw in the potential of an ownership change in Memphis (minority owners Steve Kaplan and Daniel Straus can buy out current owner Robert Pera) and this is a sticky situation.

At first blush, this looks like a “we are not trading Gasol or anyone, we want to win” move, but we shall see. And we’ll see if Bickerstaff can turn the tide for a shorthanded team. He might for a few games, but like Fizdale he doesn’t have the players to do it for long.

Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis still not talking off court

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The Bulls are 5-0 since Nikola Mirotic returned from an injury suffered when Bobby Portis punched him in the face during a preseason practice. Mirotic and Portis are both excelling individually, and Chicago has outscored opponents by a whopping 34.3 points per 100 possessions when those two share the court.

Jack Maloney of CBSSports.com:

When asked if the two former combatants have spoken yet, Mirotic said, “We did on the floor. We’ve always spoken because we need to have good communication.” As for whether they’ve talked off the floor, however, Mirotic was succinct in his response: “No.”

I guess Mirotic hasn’t completely moved on, though he said he did. But that’s fine. How could someone get past a teammate punching him in the face?

Importantly, this is becoming just a regular NBA problem. The extent of that practice punch was practically unprecedented. But plenty of players have loathed teammates while making it work on the court. That happens more than people realize.

Mirotic and Portis can make this their status quo – at least the on-court cooperation. I’m not convinced Chicago will keep winning like this.

Watch Kobe Bryant’s ‘Dear Basketball’ short film (video)

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Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in a letter called “Dear Basketball,” which was made into a short film.

Now, on the day the Lakers retire his Nos. 8 and 24, you can watch it. It’s quite beautiful:

Double number retirement fitting for Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant’s career truly occurred in two acts.

He was Shaquille O’Neal’s super sidekick for three championships. Then, Kobe led the Lakers to another two titles himself after Shaq departed.

He was an athletic, high-flying slam-dunk-contest champion. Then, he became known for his cerebral play and footwork.

He faced trial for rape in Colorado (the case was ultimately dismissed, and he settled civilly), blame for Shaq getting traded and criticism for being too selfish when the Lakers struggled in the aftermath of Shaq’s departure. Then, Kobe – still beloved by his fans – again became a socially acceptable marketing force.

His 2007 trade request serves as the more accurate intermission point, but his 2006 jersey change from No. 8 to No. 24 works well enough. He had a Hall of Fame career in No. 8 then a borderline Hall of Fame career in No. 24. Think Tracy Mcgrady’s career followed by Bernard King’s – but it was just Kobe followed by Kobe and with far more postseason success.

Here are the win-share leaders with a single franchise during Kobe’s career:

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So much about Kobe is excessive – his accolades, his shot selection, his reputation as clutch. He had an all-time great career, but the myth outpaces reality.

Yet, Kobe becoming the first player with two numbers retired by the same team – which the Lakers will do at halftime tonight – feels incredibly appropriate. In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Kobe had time to succeed then succeed again in an extravagant way only he could manage.

He was dedicated and disciplined, flashy and fastidious, No. 8 and No. 24

Warriors will watch Kobe Bryant’s numbers get retired, Lakers might not

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The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.

The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.

“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:

“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.

“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”

Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.

But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.

Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.

After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.

In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.