The David Fizdale era in Memphis is off to a quality start. His first year had its ups and downs, but, all in all, he showed that he can be trusted to lead this team going forward.
Taking over what old coach Dave Joerger left was no easy task. Memphis has a team and a fan base that lives by their basketball culture. He took the Grit N Grind style of basketball and added a few of his own tweaks to it. He spread the floor out letting his best players go to work. Conley had a career year and Gasol had the green light shooting from all over clearing the paint for others.
This year, the team was up in points per game, wins, three-pointers made and attempted, and assists. Fizdale accepted that the NBA is changing to the Spray N Pray era driven off three-point attempts. He took this and opened up the floor for any and all to shoot when they have an open shot.
Fizdale worked with many lineups throughout the year combatting injuries to many of the starters and having to overcome the absence at small forward left by Chandler Parson’s disappearing act. Coach Fiz also revamped Zach Randolph’s game having him come off the bench. Z-bo’s points and field goal percentage were up this year and looked to be much more efficient knowing his role coming off the bench.
Even through all this change to the Grizzlies roster, he got the team to a higher offensive rating from a 102.6 in the ’15-’16 season to a 104.7 rating this season. Out of timeouts, Coach Fiz is one of the best coaches in the league. That was on display in the playoffs against one of the best defensive wizards in the league in Kawhi Leonard.
One thing Fizdale did this year, that may be the most important piece of coaching all year, is that he got the support of Grizz Nation. He was accepted for being the outspoken coach that had the epic rant that all of Memphis adored in the playoff series with the Spurs.
By now we have all seen the video, seen/purchased the t-shirts, and saw how the team responded. Above all else, this is what people should be most excited for with David Fizdale. He stood up for the franchise player of the Grizzlies and had everyone talking about him and the team for the 24-hour news cycle. It got the city rocking and the Grindhouse bumping for two crucial playoff wins giving an unexpected hope in the series.
Ways to Improve
Fizdale had another rant that many may not remember because of the impact of the Data Rant. This was when he was fed up by the media critics questioning his lineup changes trying to find a way out of the bottom tier of playoffs teams in the West.
For those of you questioning David Fizdale's line-up changes this late in the season--the Grizz coach pulls no punches with his response. pic.twitter.com/4TfTSLrwhj— Mike Ceide (@MCeide_WREG3) March 8, 2017
Coach didn’t hold back in that interview. His message is absolutely correct. Memphis shouldn’t settle for mediocracy. However, he was visibly upset and took it out on the wrong people. As media personalities can be quite annoying, they are not the ones you should be attacking. The media people that you said should kiss your (butt) are the same people who are writing columns about you which all of Memphis reads. If they send a bad message, that message could be interpreted in a poor light to the fan base.
About one month after this media blow up, Tony Allen had his season ending injury playing in a meaningless game right before the playoffs. With hindsight being 20/20, he shouldn’t have been playing. However, it would have been a bad decision to play him at that point in the game even if TA didn’t get hurt. Now, the blame can not be placed directly on Fizdale for this injury happening because injuries are never predictable. At the same time, injuries are preventable. Tony Allen should not have been in the game, and Fizdale’s arrogance may have been a contributing factor to these high minutes.
Fizdale needs to understand this is a high-stress job in that there is no way of satisfying everyone. He can improve by not trying to show up people and think soundly in how he makes lineup decisions. Letting his arrogance get in the way could be a factor in his eventual downfall.
2016-2017 Overall Grade
Coach David Fizdale had an overall successful first year. He has the mindset needed for a shifting of culture in this new NBA era. He knows what it takes to take these superstars he has and achieve the best from them. Fizdale has the winning mentality from his championship in Miami. The biggest question is if his outspoken, arrogant at times personality will be a positive or a detriment to the team. He has to keep his emotions in check to not hurt the team. Yes to post game rants supporting his players, no to telling critics to kiss his (butt).
Next season will be yet another tough test for Coach Fizdale. Depending on what the front office does in the offseason, Fiz will have most of the same pieces he had this season. How much higher is their ceiling? He will be tested to get all out of the team. The players and fans are not going to be happy with another trip to the playoffs only to be knocked out by a better-seeded team. The positive thing is that Coach Fizdale is not happy with that result either. Next year, he will emphasize that. What happens after that only he can decide.
Take That For Data!
All stats provided by NBA.com