Kurt Helin

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.

Three Things to Know: Grizzlies sit frustrated Gasol in fourth, lose 8th straight

Associated Press
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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.

1) Memphis has lost eight in a row, and benching Marc Gasol in fourth didn’t end that streak.
After today’s game — where Brooklyn beat Memphis 98-88 — the Nets and Grizzlies have the exact same record, 7-12. Let’s give the scrappy Nets credit — they are doing it without Jeremy Lin and now D’Angelo Russell. You have to be impressed with the way they compete (unless you’re a Cavaliers fan).

However, the wheels have come off in Memphis — they have lost eight in a row, Mike Conley is still out with a sore Achilles, and on Sunday Chandler Parsons went to the locker room after tweaking his knee in the first half and did not return due to “knee tightness.” Then, trying to ride the hot hands off the bench, coach David Fizdale sat his best player — Marc Gasol — for the entire fourth. So now Memphis’ best player is pissed off (and not in a good way).

David Fizdale is frustrated and grasping for answers — Gasol has been part of the problem as he has struggled to carry the offense in the wake of all the injuries around him, shooting 39.4 percent in his last 10 games, and he’s not the defender he once was. But is benching him and straining that relationship the right move? (Gasol handled it calmly and well postgame.) I don’t see how it is — struggling or not, Gasol is still their best player. With Conley sidelined, they need Gasol (and a better version of Gasol).

What they really need is more help around Gasol and Conley. The Grizzlies offense has 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. Tell me if you’ve heard that before. Fizdale doesn’t have the piece he needs.

Their defense got them off to that 5-1 start and had the team afloat early, but in the last eight games that has come apart, too — 24th in the NBA over that stretch. Opponents are shooting well against them, getting to the line a lot, and getting the offensive rebound on 24.5 percent of their misses in the last eight games.

It’s too early to hit the panic button him Memphis, in a West with a lot of teams stumbling they are still just 1.5 games out of the playoffs. However, if the season continues like and other teams start calling to test the availability of Gasol and Conley, the Grizzlies have to listen to trade proposals. Not pull the trigger (depends on the offer), but listen and start to consider it is time to rebuild. The time for that is coming in Memphis, and the team’s play lately means that time may be sooner rather than later.

2) Tony Parker will be back with the Spurs Monday. Parker himself confirmed it on Sunday.

This is certainly good news for the 12-7 Spurs, adding depth to an already quality point guard core of Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray — and the Spurs have been better with Murray on the court this season (Mills has struggled with his shot, with a true shooting percentage of 47.9 this season). However, don’t think of this as season altering, Parker isn’t quite that guy anymore — last season his PER and True Shooting Percentage were below league average (and the rest of the starters played better with Mills than him). Still, it is good news in San Antonio. Gregg Popovich has more options now, and that could mean less Mills.

3) Derrick Rose is still not back with the Cavaliers, but he is talking to them. Derrick Rose’s existential crisis continues — does he want to battle through yet another injury, this time a sprained ankle, and get back on the court, or walk away — but meanwhile the Cavaliers have won seven in a row without him and their defense has improved.

The main revelation on Sunday was that this was not Rose going AWOL (as had been seen in New York), he’s in communication with the team. There still is no timetable for his return.

I still expect him to be back — he still has $80 million or so owed him by Adidas, if he walks away he leaves that on the table. As the kids say today, Rose is his own cat (okay, kids in the 1950s said that, not so much anymore), and he can be unpredictable. He is not money driven like some players… but $80 million? Still, see him returning. Now, whether another team will pick him up after this season is another question (probably, but it’s far from certain), but the question on this season should be about the timeline.

 

ABA star, Portland broadcasting legend Steve “Snapper” Jones dies

Photo courtesy NBA
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Steve “Snapper” Jones, a three-time ABA All-Star who became the long-time color broadcaster for the Portland Trail Blazers — and with the “NBA on NBC” for a decade — has died at age 75 at his home in Houston after having battled a lengthy illness.

Jones played eight ABA seasons — bouncing between Oakland, New Orleans, Memphis, Dallas, Carolina, Denver, and St. Louis — where he averaged 16 points a game and was a three-time All-Star. His final season playing was in the NBA with Portland in 1975-76, the city where he grew up, and he was eventually able to parlay that into a broadcasting career with the team for 26 seasons, and also work nationally including on ESPN, TNT, and NBC.

“Steve was as positive and good-natured a broadcasting partner as I could have had,” Hall of Fame broadcaster Bill Schonely of Jones. “He loved to call me ‘Pops’ as a nickname, and we worked very well together on Trail Blazers games during some of the early years of the franchise. He was a terrific guy.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement on Jones passing.

Our thoughts are with Jones’ family and friends.

A bet is a bet: Stephen Curry wears fanny pack at Warriors game

Associated Press
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Last Tuesday, Davidson took on the University of Nevada college basketball — and Davidson alum Stephen Curry and Nevada alum JaVale McGee had a bet on the outcome.

Nevada won comfortably 81-68.

And a bet is a bet — Curry started to pay up Saturday night.

Watch James Harden drop 37 points and 10 assists on Knicks

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The Knicks were on the road (where they have struggled this season), plus they were without Kristaps Porzingis and Enes Kanter.

The Houston Rockets, on the other hand, had James Harden.

Harden dropped 37 points and added 10 assists in leading the Rockets to a comfortable home win, 117-102. Check out his performance above.