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Grizzlies GM on firing Fizdale: “We needed to have a change to try to save the season”


Yes, he was very frustrated after being benched in the fourth quarter Sunday night, but after that Marc Gasol did not go to Grizzlies management and demand coach David Fizdale be fired.

This wasn’t entirely about Gasol, this is about a management team that wants to win now and thinks they have put together a team good enough to do just that. Check out these the quotes from Memphis General Manager Chris Wallace at the press conference introducing interim (for the season, at least) coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

“We are the Memphis Grizzlies. We always get through adversity, and emerge on the other side of adversity and have success… We needed to have a change to try to save the season.”

“Unfortunately, we are underperforming even the lowest of preseason expectations, and we’re an organization that has high expectations for our team, so a change had to be made… Going back to last year, we’re just 14-26 over our last 40 regular-season games. So, the trends were not positive, and we had to make a change in course at this time, early in the season.

“…But this is a production, bottom-line business, and a change was warranted, and it had to be made.”

What were the expectations for the Grizzlies entering this season? They had two borderline All-Star level players in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, surrounded by a few potentially solid role players — JaMychal Green once he got healthy, Chandler Parsons if he could stay healthy, James Ennis, Tyreke Evans — but not a lot of depth. If things broke right and this team stayed primarily healthy, even Grizzlies fans predicted a top end of 45ish wins and a 7-8 playoff seed. But healthy was a big “if” with the history of these players, and if guys were not healthy.

Well, we’re seeing what they look like when the team is not healthy. This is not out of the realm of expectations.

At the press conference, Wallace pounded on that “we are the Memphis Grizzlies” theme and turning this team back into the kind of team the Memphis fans love and have come to expect. This season. He didn’t say “grit n’ grind” but he might as well have.

That just leads to a lot of questions:

• Does Wallace really think this team is as good as years past, such as the teams that reached the conference Finals? Does he really think the supporting cast is that strong?

• Does management think a nearly 33-year-old Gasol and Conley, who is out resting his Achilles right now and has had a chronic issue there, can lead this team in the same way?

• Wasn’t Fizdale brought in to help this team evolve into a more modern NBA style? Wasn’t that part of the reason the franchise moved on from Zach Randolph and Tony Allen? Fizdale didn’t have the players to do everything he wanted, but he tried (the tempo was up, they shot more threes).

Wallace made it clear this was a team that should win more now, and in a West with a lot of teams stumbling due to injury issues — the Jazz, Clippers — and others just stumbling (Oklahoma City), the Grizzlies are not out of the playoff mix by any means this season. They have been to the postseason six seasons is a row, Wallace wants it to be seven.

But what is the long-term plan in Memphis? Just to keep holding on? Grizzlies fans appreciate a team that works hard and defends, but that culture can be maintained and built upon during a rebuild, too.

Until Conley returns the Grizzlies are not going to make much of a run at anything, and even when he returns how much of a run they can make is up for debate. But that’s what management wants.

If this team is out of the playoff mix as we get into early 2018, Wallace may need to alter his plans and think about what could be gained in a Gasol trade (Conley, with four years left on his deal and his injury history, would be very hard to move). It is time to seriously consider what is next in Memphis, and if a Gasol or other trade can jump start it (although a mid-first-round pick may be as good as it gets for Gasol at this point). Even if the Grizzlies are in the playoff mix, those discussions should be happening in a serious way.

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.

George Hill nails half-court buzzer-beater with less than a second to shoot (video)

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I bet this made George Hill happier.

The Kings still losing to the Raptors, 108-93, probably didn’t, though.

Phil Jackson to miss Kobe Bryant’s jersey retirement Monday

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For one last night, Staples Center will belong to Kobe Bryant on Monday.

Sure, the Warriors are in town to take on the Lakers, but Monday night the Lakers are retiring Kobe Bryant’s numbers — both 8 and 24 — in a halftime ceremony. It’s been the hottest ticket in Los Angeles, with celebrities, luminaries, and regular Lakers fans shelling out a lot of cash to see the Laker legend be honored.

Except, Phil Jackson will not be there, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Jackson has been in touch with Bryant in advance of the ceremony to congratulate him, sources said. But he was unable to travel from his Montana home for the ceremony in Los Angeles.

No reason was given (nor does one need to be made public, that’s between Kobe and Jackson).

Jackson coached Kobe to all five of his NBA titles, and while their relationship had its ups and downs — remember Jackson called out Kobe as almost uncoachable in one of his books — they remain close.


Three Things to Know: LeBron James racks up third straight triple-double

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here’s what you missed on Sunday while practicing your ax throwing in Paris

1) LeBron James has third straight triple-double… and sends equality message. Back in the 2008-09 season, LeBron James strung together three consecutive games of triple-doubles, the season he went on to win his first MVP award. Despite 61 career triple-doubles, he hasn’t had a string like that since.

Until now. LeBron put together three again this week, the most recent coming at the expense of the Washington Wizards on Sunday, a team that had no answer for his playmaking skills. James finished the game with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists. It wasn’t the most efficient LeBron scoring performance of his career (8-of-23 shooting overall, 2-of-7 from three, his legs looked a little tired on the back-to-back) and he was playing too much in isolation (nearly twice as many possessions as in pick-and-roll). However, down the stretch he was a fantastic playmaker, finding teammates — such as finding the cutting Jeff Green and Kyle Korver — and doing what it took to lift his team to the 106-99 win (Cleveland’s has won five straight and 18-of-19).

LeBron was also sending a message while playing in our nation’s capital: He wore one black and one white of the LeBron 15s, with the word “Equality” on the back of both of them. Good on LeBron, I love that he has found a voice and is comfortable using it.

2) Cavaliers sticking to plan even if he seems ready: Isaiah Thomas should join Cavaliers after the first of the year. Patience. It’s a virtue. Cleveland’s end game is to have another elite playmaker and scorer on the floor in late May and (hopefully) June, not for Christmas Day (no matter who is on the schedule).

Meaning that despite the face Isaiah Thomas is working out and says he and his injured hip feel ready to return, it will be 2018 before he officially pulls on a Cavaliers jersey and takes the court.

This is the smart play by the Cavaliers, who have racked up enough wins not to need to push him. That said, LeBron is carrying a heavy load — he’s played more minutes than anyone in the league so far, and this is his 15th NBA season — and the Cavaliers need to get him some help and rest so he is fresh for the postseason.

3) Detroit ties a franchise record with 17 made threes in win over Orlando. The Pistons are not exactly a great three-point shooting team: They average a middle-of-the-pack 29.3 attempts per game (31.6 percent of their attempts), but at least hit them at a healthy 38.3 percent clip. Detroit does a good job at least of getting corner threes up and knocking them down.

Sunday they were knocking everything down, hitting 17-of-34 threes to tie a franchise record for the most made threes in a game. Anthony Tolliver led the way (5-of-7 from deep) with Reggie Bullock pitching in 4-of-5.

The Pistons have snapped out of their seven-game losing streak to win three in a row now, including a quality win over the Pacers on the second night of a back-to-back.