The last time the Miami Heat were in the playoffs, assistant coach David Fizdale already had been summoned for an interview by the Memphis Grizzlies. The day after the Heat were eliminated by the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of the 2016 Eastern Conference semifinals, Erik Spoelstra was prepping his friend for a job he eventually would land.
Now, two years later, the Heat are back in the playoffs and Fizdale is back in play, dismissed early this season by a Grizzlies franchise in turmoil.
With Fizdale having guided the Grizzlies to last season's playoffs, a postseason the Heat sat out, there are mixed feelings from Spoelstra about reports linking Fizdale as a front runner for the New York Knicks' vacancy.
"Fiz is a great fit anywhere," Spoelstra said earlier in this series against the Philadelphia 76ers. "He's a brilliant basketball mind that has exceptional, gold-standard level communication skills. He's one of my best friends. But I say that objectively.
"I just think he's one of the most talented coaches I've been around. I feel very grateful that we had an opportunity to work together for so long. I just hope he goes west."
Spoelstra laughed, but it parroted similar sentiment offered when Fizdale interviewed and then took the job with the Western Conference Grizzlies. That limited the friend-vs.-friend exposure to two games a season. With the Knicks, there could be as many as four annually.
"That's the kind of respect I have for him," Spoelstra said. "I don't want him going anywhere in the East."
While candidates with New York ties also have been summoned by the Knicks, including former Knicks point guard Mark Jackson and Queens product Kenny Smith, the TNT analyst, Fizdale's temperament would make him a comfortable fit amid the city's tabloids, able to reduce tensions, as he did during the Heat's Big Three era, but also able to create the needed headlines, as he did with his "take that for data" rant amid last season's playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs.
As it is, Fizdale already received the endorsement of Dwyane Wade when the Heat closed their regular-season road schedule at Madison Square Garden.
"He's a phenomenal coach," Wade said inside the visitor's locker room. "I think everyone's seen that with the job he was able to do in Memphis. His name will be in the running for a lot of jobs. One thing he's going to bring to a team is his work ethic. He has a great offensive mind, but he has defensive principles with the Miami Heat.
"Pat Riley has instilled that in every coach that's come here. He's a good manager of personalities, as well. The sky's the limit for whatever organization is going to get him and give him an opportunity to really put his fingerprints on an opportunity for a long time."
To Wade, the confidence comes from the Heat's coaching tree that went from Pat Riley to Stan Van Gundy back to Riley and then to Spoelstra.
"One thing about the coaches in Miami," Wade said, "they all go up the ranks. They all do everything before they become a head coach. He can break down film, as well."
And that's the thing, Spoelstra said -- there is more to come.
With Fizdale's departure, assistant coach Chris Quinn moved to the front of the bench, joining assistants Juwan Howard and Dan Craig in that role. Now, video coordinator Eric Glass, who inherited the position Spoelstra and Fizdale previously held with the Heat, is poised for his own ascension to the Heat bench.
"The way we've worked it," Spoelstra said, "is guys have really stepped up and taken on more responsibility, and not only D.C., but Juwan is ready to take that next step soon. Chris Quinn, obviously what he did this summer was tremendous; he's going to be a future head coach. Eric Glass, behind the bench, if you don't know who he is right now, write an article about him. He's going to be a head coach and he'll be the next in line of David Fizdales, Pat Delanys, Dan Craigs to come out of the video room and to get on the staff officially."
Just as the NBA has had its Hubie Brown and Larry Brown coaching trees, and then Pat Riley coaching tree, Erik Spoelstra's progeny are taking root.
Only, in the case of David Fizdale, it may prove too close for comfort.
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IN THE LANE
STAN SUMMIT: Speaking of the Heat's coaching tree, decision day is looming when it comes to Stan Van Gundy's future as both coach and lead executive with the Detroit Pistons. After the Pistons closed 39-43 and missed the playoffs for the third time in Van Gundy's four seasons, owner Tom Gores told reporters that further inspection is warranted. "We have to make some changes," Gores said in advance of his impending summit with Van Gundy. "I'm just not sure what they are. He's been working, so I need to hear from Stan. I can tell you this: He's an extremely dedicated man and he's been good for our franchise. That I know for sure." In the balance are the futures of several former Heat players on Van Gundy's staff, including assistant coaches Tim Hardaway, Malik Allen and Rex Walters.
BAM'S BLOCK: The NBA has taken such a low-key approach with its awards for Plays of the Year that Heat rookie center Bam Adebayo said he was not even aware he was a finalist for Block of the Year until a day after the five finalists were announced. "I'm just finding about this now, so it's appreciated," he said when informed that his rejection against the Milwaukee Bucks had made the cut. "Hopefully I'll get it. It would be great to have an award with just this first year under my belt. It would make it a great rookie season for me." Adebayo is also expected to receive consideration for one of the NBA's All-Rookie teams.
NO TIME SOON: When asked at the recent Board of Governors meeting about the All-Star Game falling later in the schedule due to the NBA's earlier starting date, Commissioner Adam Silver offered a response that essentially put on hold Heat hopes of hosting All-Star Weekend. "We've sort of been focused around that Presidents' Day weekend holiday as the best time to do it because it's a three-day weekend for a lot of people," Silver said. "It allows for a travel day back for a lot of our guests." The problem in South Florida is Presidents' Weekend also is when the Miami International Boast Show and Coconut Grove Arts Festival are staged, limiting both the hotel and convention space needed to host the NBA showcase. The only time All-Star Weekend has been staged in South Florida was in 1990, at Miami Arena. The next three All-Star Games are scheduled for Charlotte (2019), Chicago (2020) and Indianapolis (2021).
NEXT LEVEL: If the NBA, as it has proposed, is seeking a cut of sport-betting revenue on its games, a reasonable place to start would be something closer to NFL-style injury reports. Instead, Joel Embiid was listed as doubtful by the 76ers at 10 a.m. Thursday, but by 5 p.m. had bypassed questionable and moved to probable, suiting up two hours later. Now, there certainly is something to be said about fast-tracking the process (or, for that matter, The Process), but one would think that transparency would be put into place in advance of the legal wise guys getting into the game. Instead, NBA injury information remains a case of someone who knows someone who knows someone. For their part, the Heat, at midseason, began publicly updating injury information in real time, as status changed.
3. Players older than Dwyane Wade (36) to score at least 28 points off the bench in a playoff game, which Wade did in Game 2 vs. the 76ers: Eddie Johnson (38 years old), with 31 in 1997, Vince Carter (37), with 28 in 2014 and Andre Miller (37) with 28 in 2013.