Storyline: David Fizdale Firing

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In his second interview since getting axed in December, David Fizdale was on “The Jump” and repeated he had no “regret’ but added: “For me personally, the toughest part was that I didn’t fulfill what I went there to do. I wanted to give the fans a relative team, a winner. The fan base was so awesome and so passionate about the team. The fact that I couldn’t get over the hump to where I wanted to get it to; that part is a tough pill to swallow.”

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One month after he was fired as head coach of the New York Knicks, David Fizdale said that he has “no ill feelings” toward the organization. Speaking for the first time about his firing on ESPN’s Golic and Wingo, Fizdale said he understood that the decision to let him go wasn’t personal. “That’s the business we’ve chosen,” Fizdale said Wednesday. “I respect those guys greatly. I miss the hell out of them. … I obviously learned a ton from it and I was just really grateful to have that opportunity to say I was the head coach of the Knicks.”

David Aldridge: Are you concerned at all that your reputation may be taking a hit here? Marc Gasol: No. Because I believe that whatever the scenario might be, whatever people might think, things don’t work that easy. It’s not that simple. Obviously, the first instinct is to think, Wwell, Marc got Fizdale out of there.’ This is an NBA team. Things don’t work that way. Was it an ideal situation? Were we agreed on everything? No. I could have done a better job, for sure. Anything having to do with basketball, I’m the second-most responsible guy out there. But as far as the other stuff, it don’t work that way.

But it was hard to really believe him. “We’re coaching for something bigger right now with our team, but certainly I still feel for Fiz and unfortunately what he had to go through here,” said Spoelstra of Fizdale, who spent eight years as an assistant under him. “I had lunch with him this afternoon. That’s my brother. “You want him to have a fair shot at it and to be able to go through some tough times, some adverse times, through a transition period that the organization was going through. And that’s what the thought was – that there would be a transition and an opportunity to build a different culture. Unfortunately he wasn’t given that opportunity.”

Peter Vecsey: On the day Fizdale and the Grizzlies ended their alliance after one season and 19 games (7-12), I revealed he’d forced management to fire him by refusing to reconcile differences with Marc Gasol. Fizdale appeared to have made that clear the previous evening by benching the All-Star center for the final 15 minutes in a loss to the Nets. The next day, in an emergency meeting convened by GM Chris Wallace, there was no bout a doubt it, as we used to say back in the day.

Peter Vecsey: “The first thing you learn when you become an NBA coach is to come to an understanding with the team’s elite players,” the above retired lifer stated, “The second is not to pit players against each other. They will take sides, but inevitably will side against the coach. “Fizdale would say stuff about Gasol behind his back to his teammates. By the time, he was ready to say what he had to say in front of the whole team, Gasol already had been alerted.”

It’s been a tumultuous last few days. What’s your reaction to coach David Fizdale getting fired? Mike Conley: Man, it’s hard. It’s tough to lose a coach for any reason. Fiz did a lot for me, our team and the city. You just hate to see a guy like that get fired. But, at the same time, we have to move forward somehow. We have to be able to take what we have now, buy into what we have and into (interim) coach J.B. (Bickerstaff) and trust we’re headed in the right direction.

Did you get the sense that the relationship between Fizdale and Marc Gasol was irreparable? Mike Conley: They had their differences at different times during the year. That happens with any coach. It just so happens that their relationship wasn’t at its best at the time we needed it to be, especially when the microscope was on us and we’re losing games. Unfortunately, it got to this point. Who knows how it could’ve been fixed if the decision (to fire Fizdale) didn’t get made? It is what it is. We just have to deal with it.

Was that your main job November 26 against Brooklyn when Gasol didn’t play in the fourth quarter? Mike Conley: Yes. Trying to defuse any reaction or overreaction from either side. I was in Marc’s ear the whole time, sitting on the bench next to him just trying to encourage him. I told him things like this happen. Don’t overreact. Just focus on the team. I thought he did a decent job of that. Q: What was your reaction when Gasol said the coaches wouldn’t have done this to Mike? Mike Conley: I didn’t think anything of it. I don’t know what he meant by it. But he says a lot when he’s angry.
2 years ago via ESPN

“You first always have to look in the mirror and see what you must do better in every situation,” Marc Gasol said. “I’ve got to shoot the ball better. I’ve got to lead the guys and overcommunicate maybe to some of them, show no negative response to anything that might happen during games or whatever it might be. That consistency and that leadership is what this team needs right now, I think. “You obviously look back and see what you could have done differently with Coach Fizdale. That was allowing frustrations to build up on the court. That was something I’m obviously responsible for and something that I can control and something that I must control for our team to be successful.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Gregg Popovich on David Fizdale: “You don’t know what’s going on in another organization, but you know the people. I know Fiz. Like I told him, he should have no trouble whatsoever being hired elsewhere at some point, sooner rather than later, because he did a hell of a job. He knows his stuff, he cares, he cares about community as much as he does on the court. You hate to see that, but I know what his value is and how much he cares. It’s unfortunate that it happened. It doesn’t do any good to blame – ‘It’s because of this, it’s because of that.’ Everybody will just move on and hope that the team does well and that Fiz ends up well someplace else.”

The Memphis Grizzlies sent shockwaves through NBA circles Monday when they fired coach David Fizdale. Nuggets’ coach Michael Malone has sympathy for Fizdale. He was also fired near the quarter-pole in his second season with a franchise. In December 2014, Malone was relieved of his duties as the Sacramento Kings coach after amassing a 28-54 record in his first year and an 11-13 mark to start his sophomore season. “It really reminded me of my situation in Sacramento,” Malone said. “Mike Conley goes out. They go 0-7, 0-8. DeMarcus Cousins gets viral meningitis. We go two and whatever. And I get fired. He gets fired. David Fizdale is going to be back in the league as a head coach and he’ll be in a better situation just like I am.”

But while the widespread confusion about the David Fizdale move is understandable, it can’t be said enough that there’s no quicker way to lose job security in the NBA coaching ranks than getting sideways with the franchise star. And while there was tension between Marc Gasol and Fizdale, the truth is that the dynamic was even worse than realized. Two people with knowledge of the situation say there was little-to-no communication between the two of them for the better part of the past 10 months, with the Sunday night benching in Brooklyn merely a tipping point in a situation that started to go sour quite some time ago. And with the Feb. trade deadline looming, there was no better way to appease Gasol and quell the league-wide chatter about how he might want out of Memphis than to show him where the organization’s loyalties lie. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

“It’s tough man,” Richardson said. “I don’t think he deserved that. I don’t think he was given enough of a chance with one of their best players being out for so long, so of course it’s gonna be tough to win as many games as you want. But I mean Fiz—I was one of the closest to him my rookie year. My pre-draft workout in Miami, we talked for like 35 minutes the first time we ever met. He encouraged me a lot. He told me I had a great chance to be in this league. He had seen me play and the first day I got drafted here, I texted him. I was like, ‘I’m on the plane. I can’t believe it. Let’s get in the gym tomorrow.’ Fiz is one of my closest friends and coaches, one of my guys, so I’m praying that he lands well.”

Vince Carter: [David Fizdale] would tell all his players, ‘My job is to get you paid and get you some money in this league.’ It wasn’t about anything else. Of course, the organization wants to win. But he wanted to see guys reach their potential. I don’t [know why]. I don’t. It just unfortunate. It just makes you shake your head sometimes. It’s a business. I’ve known him for a very long time. It was just great to see him [get an opportunity]. He’s all about playing the right way. Him coming from a championship atmosphere [as an assistant coach with the Miami Heat], that is what he brought to the table. He wanted to change that organization [Memphis] to a championship mentality, a championship organization doing it the right way.

There was a him-or-me dynamic on Sunday night [between head coach David Fizdale and star Marc Gasol], [and] the Grizzlies fearing a public trade demand by Gasol on one side or firing Fizdale, a promising young coach, after just 101 games on the other. Memphis chose “him” and fired Fizdale, which presumably means the franchise is standing by Gasol into the future. But nothing should be presumed when it comes to the way the Grizzlies handle their front office and coaching staff.

That’s a different angle through which the Fizdale firing can be viewed — not just as a choice between Fizdale or Gasol, but as a way to protect one of the franchise’s two biggest assets. Two other league sources agreed that Marc Gasol still could be trade bait. When a player demands a trade in a public forum, two things almost always happen — and the combination is a nightmare for the franchise. One, the player winds up getting dealt; and two, the player’s value plummets because executives looking to make a deal know they’re dealing with a desperate team.

But the issues that were in place before Fizdale was fired in Memphis remain, and this might only worsen them. Fizdale had a lot of support among Memphis’ younger players, and the irony of firing him before trading Gasol is that he is exactly the kind of coach you’d want to lead a rebuilding effort — positive, a good teacher, innovative in his approach, tough when he needs to be. The Grizzlies just fired the coach they’d want to hire after a Gasol trade before they made a Gasol trade.

While the Monday decision came as a major surprise to even those of us who monitor such situations closely, it probably shouldn’t have because, well, the dynamic between the coach and one of the team’s prized players was far from healthy. That’s all it takes these days to put a coach in the crosshairs. The fact that the Grizzlies compounded matters by losing eight consecutive games leading up to the decision certainly didn’t help (and neither did a 7-14 finish to the 2016-17 regular season that preceded their first-round playoff exit and wasn’t forgotten by team officials).

A person close to the situation made clear to CBS Sports that, while the team had been “trending in the wrong direction,” without the irreconcilable differences between Fizdale and Gasol, Fizdale’s termination might not have been necessary. The person, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks, also said that owner Robert Pera did not intervene in the situation despite his relationship with Gasol. The decision to fire Fizdale had been made by management Sunday night.

The situation teeters on the edge of outright disaster for Memphis, which owes its 2019 first-round draft pick to the Boston Celtics and has Conley, Gasol and Chandler Parsons locked up on max deals through that spring. Team sources indicated to CBS Sports this summer that Gasol was considered “untouchable” in trade talks. A source indicated Monday that the decision to fire Fizdale in light of his conflict with Gasol is an indication that the team’s position has not changed on that matter.
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Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown thought Boston wouldn’t budge from its original $80 million extension offer before the front office substantially sweetened the pot, he told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on the Woj Pod (hat tip to Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston). Brown eventually signed a four-year, $115 million rookie-scale extension, which included $12 million in incentives. “To be honest, I came with the mindset I didn’t think that anything was going to get done,” Brown told Wojnarowski. “I wasn’t sure that anything was going to get done. The first offer was four years, $80 million. I didn’t think they were going to budge from that. So, I came with the mindset, I told (agent Jason) Glushon that, ‘Let’s see what can happen, you know?’ For me, I didn’t think Jason was going to be able to get anything done. I thought they were going to stay at ($80 million) and that was going to be it.”
Without an extension, Brown would have entered restricted free agency this summer. He was fully prepared to do that until the offer grew. “I was hell-bent, I was already locked in, focused, ready to carry the weight that I was going to go into this year playing my fourth year out. And then they jumped up, and that just showed they wanted me here in the organization,” he said on the podcast. “They appreciated my value. They thought that I added to winning. It was an offer that was too hard to kind of turn down.”
“I think you just don’t know what it’s going to be like to coach stars of that ilk,” Vogel said. “They’ve been wonderful, from the time I took the job, they’ve been very collaborative. Come together with a plan, they’ve helped with the buy in with the rest of the group. It hasn’t been the type of challenge that you may expect coaching stars of that caliber.”
In his second interview since getting axed in December, David Fizdale was on “The Jump” and repeated he had no “regret’ but added: “For me personally, the toughest part was that I didn’t fulfill what I went there to do. I wanted to give the fans a relative team, a winner. The fan base was so awesome and so passionate about the team. The fact that I couldn’t get over the hump to where I wanted to get it to; that part is a tough pill to swallow.”
Storyline: David Fizdale Firing
Any team that holds a formal “shootaround” or, for that matter, a practice, has to invite the media. Players are also supposed to be available in the locker room for 30 minutes prior to each game, but there is a basic working agreement between the league and press that players should either be available at shootaround or before the game, but not both. What has happened, though, is that most of the league’s stars, LeBron included, do not talk in that 30-minute span, ever, even if there is no shootaround.
Teams, like the Lakers, are still holding meetings and walk-throughs and working out injured players the mornings of games, they just aren’t inviting the media. They get away with it by not calling whatever it is that they’re doing a “shootaround.” Not every team is doing this — the Celtics, for instance, had a lengthy shootaround and media session afterward Monday morning — but the Lakers appear to be one. Over and over, the team announces it is not holding a shootaround (or even a practice on an off day), and then their players contradict them by referencing the workouts after the fact. On Monday, Quinn Cook posted a picture to social media of Danny Green at TD Garden for a morning workout.
An agitated Delonte West was captured discussing an alleged altercation. The person who posted the clip of the former NBA player to social media, Twitter user @damani_givens, told Complex that the video was taken in Washington D.C. West appears to be saying that someone approached him with a gun as he was walking down the street. However, when he was asked further detail about his account of the incident, Delonte repeatedly said “I don’t give a fuck” twice before ranting about something that’s difficult to understand.
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