Report: Marc Gasol did not have “him or me” ultimatum, but relationship with coach was strained

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In the NBA, elite players have the power, not coaches. This isn’t college ball where the coach is the face of the program and the guy with the hammer (read: ability to pull scholarships), or even Europe where the coaches wield that same CEO power. There are far fewer elite players in the NBA than quality coaches, and elite players are harder to get on the roster, so simple supply and demand gives the players power.

Those players can get a coach fired.

Marc Gasol did not push to do that with David Fizdale in Memphis, even though Fizdale was fired on Monday after benching in the fourth quarter on Sunday, and Gasol made frustrated comments after the game. From Marc Stein of the New York Times.

Let’s not confuse that with Gasol and Fizdale getting along, something that had been rumored around the league for a while. Gasol has had strained relationships with most of his NBA coaches. Gasol had adapted his game and was shooting threes and spacing the floor more in the past year, but he and Fizdale had clashed. From Matt Moore at CBSSports.com.

“It’s not like people in the league didn’t know that Marc and Fiz weren’t speaking or getting along,” an NBA executive told CBS Sports, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on another team.

This is more than just star player vs. coach, this is a culture clash within the organization — what kind of team are the Grizzlies trying to be? Are they spacing the floor or still old-school grit-n-grind? Both? Are they rebuilding, trying to put some guys around a couple stars and be competitive, or some combination of those two? This team feels like it’s on the cusp of major change, Memphis’ stars from its best era are aging or gone, yet some in the organization are holding on to the past.

J.B. Bickerstaff will coach out the season, but as the Grizzlies get to the trade deadline and next summer, they have some major decisions to make.