Marc Gasol talks Fizdale firing and Grizzlies struggles
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Marc Gasol wants to clear up a few things with the Memphis Grizzlies struggling through one of the worst stretches in franchise history, doing his best to defend himself.
No, Gasol says he did not get David Fizdale fired as head coach.
Yes, Gasol had a strained relationship with Fizdale before the firing.
Gasol called letting forward Zach Randolph and guard Tony Allen leave as free agents last summer a mistake.
But no, Gasol won’t ask to be traded.
“I understand that I’ve made some mistakes,” Gasol said Monday. “I understand I’m responsible for some of the things - not all the things. In any relationship, there’s multiple moving pieces. Not just one.
“There’s not a message I want to get across. I just want to win games.”
A target for criticism, Gasol spoke for about an hour with a handful of reporters around a conference table to answer questions in a session that came at his request and was often retrospective and confessional with a touch of humor.
“The season’s not going the way we all wanted early on, obviously,” Gasol said. “It’s not an easy situation for anybody.”
The season couldn’t have started better. The Grizzlies won five of their first six games, including a win over Golden State and two against Houston to put them atop the Western Conference.
Then the Grizzlies collapsed.
Point guard Mike Conley was shelved in mid-November with an aching left Achilles tendon . Their usually gritty defense disappeared. With Randolph being allowed to leave for Sacramento and Allen moving to New Orleans as free agents last summer, Gasol was the only one left from the core four that led Memphis to a franchise-record seven straight postseason appearances.
The losses mounted, reaching eight straight when Brooklyn came to town. Inexplicably in a close game, Fizdale left Gasol on the bench the entire fourth quarter. In the postgame interviews, Gasol said he was given no explanation for the decision. Fizdale was fired the following day , leaving the perception Gasol used his influence for a change.
Gasol reiterated Monday that he had nothing to do outside the court with Fizdale’s firing after just one season. Gasol said he obviously was not playing at the level he should but that he and Fizdale “couldn’t make it work.”
“I think we both wanted what was best for the team, and we were not figuring it out how to be on the same page,” Gasol said. “It got to a point that things were getting out of control fast, and (management) decided to go in a different direction.”
J.B. Bickerstaff was promoted to interim coach for the rest of the season. Yet the Grizzlies have lost 17 of their last 19 and are 14th out of 15 teams in the West.
Gasol leads the Grizzlies in scoring, rebounds, assists and blocks. He said he understands Memphis trying to move forward without Randolph and Allen and develop younger players who don’t all understand the Grizzlies’ defensive approach.
The Grizzlies announced Monday that backup forward Brandan Wright is expected to return from a right groin injury this week, which should help. Guard Wayne Selden, who has played only two games with a right quad injury, could return in two weeks. Conley’s status remains unchanged with another update expected in two more weeks.
Gasol’s ties to Memphis go deep. He grew up here while older brother, Pau, played for the Grizzlies. He later was traded to Memphis as part of the deal that sent Pau to the Lakers. Now in his 10th year with the Grizzlies, Gasol never met with any other team before signing a multi-year contract with Memphis in 2015.
The center insists he wants to stay with the Grizzlies and can’t imagine himself with another team. He also said he will do whatever is best for the franchise.
“Obviously, if it comes to a point that the situation might improve, and I’m the issue to get better ... I’m all for it,” Gasol said.
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