The Memphis Grizzlies fired coach David Fizdale on Monday, with the team at 7-12 and a day after he benched center Marc Gasol for the fourth quarter of an eighth straight loss.
General manager Chris Wallace announced the move Monday. Assistant J.B. Bickerstaff has been named interim head coach.
“After a thorough evaluation, I decided a change in course was necessary to move forward and provide the team and organization its best chance at success this season and beyond,” Wallace said in a statement.
The move caught the NBA by surprise. Dwyane Wade, who played with the Miami Heat when Fizdale was an assistant coach, wrote on Twitter that he needed answers . LeBron James retweeted a comment on Twitter calling the firing so stunning that the writer triple-checked the original ESPN report to make sure he wasn’t being duped by a fake account.
“I need some answers. Feels like my man was a fall guy,“ James wrote.
Fizdale became the franchise’s 13th head coach on May 29, 2016, and he went 50-51.
The Grizzlies reached the postseason for a seventh straight time in Fizdale’s first season, when they lost to the San Antonio Spurs. Fizdale was fined $30,000 by the NBA for a rant over officiating after a loss in Game 2.
Memphis let Zach Randolph, Vince Carter and Tony Allen all leave as free agents and signed Ben McLemore, Tyreke Evans and Mario Chalmers to retool the roster around Gasol and point guard Mike Conley to give Fizdale a faster lineup.
The moves appeared to be working when Memphis started this season an NBA-best 5-1. The Grizzlies stood atop the Western Conference with a win over the Golden State Warriors and two over Southwest Division rival Houston.
But Conley has been out since Nov. 17 resting an aching left Achilles tendon . The team lost its eighth straight on Sunday, 98-88 to the Nets, matching the longest skid for this franchise since Feb. 11-March 3, 2009. Fizdale kept Gasol on the bench for the fourth quarter, and the center made his unhappiness clear after the game.
“It’s a first for me, trust me, and I don’t like it one bit,” said Gasol, who leads Memphis in points, rebounds and assists. “I’m more (ticked) than I can show and frustrated.”
The Grizzlies gave Gasol a maximum deal in July 2015, and Gasol was an All-Star in Fizdale’s inaugural season.
Warriors’ Curry, Durant out against Kings
Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are both sidelined with injuries for Monday night’s game against Sacramento, while key backup Andre Iguodala is listed as doubtful with a sore left knee.
Curry has a bruised right hand while NBA Finals MVP Durant was set to miss his fourth game in the last five because of a sprained left ankle. He played in a loss to the Thunder last Wednesday at his old Oklahoma City stomping grounds though coach Steve Kerr said afterward KD should have sat out that one, too.
Reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green was available to play despite a bruised right foot he said he injured in the first quarter of Saturday’s win against the Pelicans.
Kerr doesn’t want to take any chances with his stars. After hosting the Kings, defending champion Golden State goes on a season-long six-game road trip spanning 10 days.