Coach David Fizdale: 'Nobody wants to step up and lead this group'

ByTim MacMahon ESPN logo
Wednesday, December 21, 2016

MEMPHIS -- Rookie head coach David Fizdale ripped theMemphis Grizzlies' leadership Tuesday night after the team's third consecutive loss.

"Right now, I'm really down on our leadership," Fizdale said without prompting after the Grizzlies blew a 17-point lead in their 112-109 overtime loss to the Boston Celtics. "Our huddles are like tombs right now. Nobody wants to step up and lead this group now during this tough time. I'm going to keep demanding it and see who's going to rise to the challenge."

Known for his direct communication style, Fizdale said the 18-12 Grizzlies "stayed in the locker room at halftime," when they had a 45-31 lead. Boston rallied behind point guard Isaiah Thomas, who scored 36 of his career-high 44 points after halftime, and Fizdale blamed blown defensive assignments for setting the tone for the Celtics' sizzling second half.

Asked for his reaction to Fizdale's harsh criticism of Memphis' leaders, Grizzlies captain Marc Gasol didn't have much to say.

"None," Gasol said. He paused and repeated himself, exaggerating as he enunciated for effect.

Asked if Fizdale's opinion was inaccurate, Gasol said: "You're asking for my reaction; I said none. He thinks that, we've got to be better, and that's it. No reaction."

Gasol carried the Grizzlies during their surprising stretch of success while point guard Mike Conley was sidelined by transverse process fractures in his lower back; he averaged 23.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists in leading Memphis to wins in seven of the eight games he played without Conley.

The Grizzlies haven't won since Conley returned in less than half of the originally projected timetable of six weeks, losing home games to the Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz and Celtics.

"I listen to Coach. Whatever he sees, I'm going to work on," Conley said when asked about Fizdale's pointed comments. "At the end of the day, I'm going to look at the film, look at myself in the mirror. I'm going to tell the guys to look in the mirror as well and say, 'Did you give everything you had? Did you lead as best as you could? Did you do things to help the team win?' And get ready for another game tomorrow."

Shooting guard Tony Allen, considered the emotional leader during the Grizzlies' Grit 'n Grind era, agreed with Fizdale.

"You've got to roll with what Coach said. He calls a spade a spade," Allen said. "I thought guys put their head down when they started cutting into the lead. Myself and Marc and Mike should take offense by that and show by example the next game.

"It's nothing like we're fighting back with Coach or nothing. We have to be better leaders and respond in critical situations when we see a lead sink. That's what I've got to get from it. We've got to be better."

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