The firing of David Fitzdale makes sense when you put all the pieces in the Marc Gasol blender. The coach who David Fitzdale replaced, Dave Joerger, once confided to a Memphis beat writer that Gasol was trying to get him fired. Eventually, Joerger was fired. And so the part of the firing that defies understanding is the emotional calculus of a ridiculous decision. The logic, though, wins out. After all, players rule this league, even 32 year old no longer in their prime players. The decision to fire Fitzdale, a two time NBA champion (MIami Heat), was made hours after Marc Gasol went on a rant because he was not inserted into the Grizzlies 4th quarter lineup in a dreary game in which the Grizzlies were outplayed and looked disinterested. The Fitzdale-Gasol relationship was icy. However, the Grizzlies front office just laid out the blueprint for whoever chooses to coach the Grizz from here on out. Specifically, the power is singular. Players come first. Coaches comes last. Every Memphis coach wanting to get their star play to rein in his ______ is going to be emasculated as the front office aligns themselves with labor and not management.
Chris Wallace, the Grizzlies GM, acknowledges Gasol’s issues with Fitzdale and vice-versa but says the eight game losing streak was the reason he was fired. His evidence was that Fitzdale was 14-26 in his last 40 games. Wallace said, “we needed to save the season.” Really, like how without a compliment of quality players? It is Gasol and Mike Conley rowing the boat and that’s it. Better yet, the front office should have fired itself.
But Gasol is who is running things now. So let’s look at his season.
He is shooting a career low 41.8%. His offensive rating has never been in the cellar like it is now, 100. He is the 20th best center (Real Plus-Minus); last year he was the 10th best. If Fitzdale is being judged as a below performer then throw Gasol in that same icy ocean and stop making excuses.
In life and in basketball, self awareness is important. Do you have a realistic understanding of who you are, what your capacity is? Or, are you a dreamer?
The Grizzlies are who they are without Mike Conley who is out for the usual Achilles strain. Losing at home to the Nets who had D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin in street clothes and DeMarre Carroll and Trevor Booker instilling pain on the Grizz is enough to make anyone salty until you look at the little things.
Tyreke Evans missed 10 shots. Gasol himself was pretty awful. He had 5 rebounds. The Nets have competed all year long which is something the Grizzlies used to do with Grit and Grind. But on Sunday, they had zero interest in playing, competing, winning, or anything else resembling NBA basketball. It was a game on the schedule no one cared about, except the fans who paid to see that disaster.
LeBron James put it correctly: David Fitzdale was the fall guy. Fitzdale’s crime with Gasol was wanting Gasol to be a leader, to be vocal, to have input on plays. He wanted Gasol to be LeBron James who he coached in Miami.
This year in Memphis was always going to be about transition. Z-Bo is gone. So is Tony Allen. And locker room sage Vince Carter. Replacing them are the young and average and reclamation projects (Tyreke Evans) and continually injured (Chandler Parson, Mike Conley).
The Grizzlies are the slowest paced team in the league, nauseatingly slow. They take the fewest shots and the ones they do take don’t go in a lot of the time. They are not the worst three point shooting team, just the second worst. They are next to last in offensive rebounding, nearly as bad in defensive rebounding, at the bottom of the league in assists. And they can’t score.
Here are their one-quarter season over grades:
- A: Turnovers, Fast Break Points
- B: Points Allowed, Field Goal Defense, Free Throw Percentage
- C: Field Goal Percentage, 3-Point Attempts
- D: Assists, Steals, Offensive Rating, First Quarter Scoring
- F: Field Goal Attempts, Pace, 3-Point Percentage, Offensive Rebounding, Defensive Rebounding, Total Rebounding, Scoring, 3rd Quarter Scoring, Second Half Scoring
Replacing Fitzdale is J.B. Bickerstaff who finds himself in the right place at the right time. He replaced Kevin McHale in Houston when McHale was fired in the first month in 2015. He inherits a team with a lot of problems, not to mention the best player (Conley) is hurt, and Gasol is disgruntled and powerful, and a lot of spare parts who score the fewest amount of second half points than anyone in the league. Firing Fitzdale didn’t save the season. It won’t stop the bleeding.
The bleeding is just getting started.