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.