Grizzlies star Gasol denies engineering coach firing

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Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) handles the ball while Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker (4) defends during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Erik Williams, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

LOS ANGELES — Memphis Grizzlies star Marc Gasol said Tuesday he had nothing to do with the struggling NBA team’s decision to sack coach David Fizdale.

Fizdale was let go on Monday, a day after a furious Gasol was benched for the fourth quarter of the team’s eighth straight defeat.

But the Spanish big man said he was surprised by the timing of the move.

“Nobody likes to see a coach change during the season because you don’t have enough time to work on stuff,” Gasol told reporters on Tuesday. “I was a little bit shocked by it.”

Memphis general manager Chris Wallace said the firing of the second-year coach was due to the team being underachievers and not related to any rift between Fizdale and Gasol.

“There were bigger trends than just the relationship between the two of them,” Wallace said. “It just hasn’t been going well for us after a good start. And there was no indication that it was going to change magically any time soon.”

Memphis started the season 7-4 before the string of losses began. The Grizzlies haven’t won since losing point guard Mike Conley to an Achilles tendon injury seven games ago.

Gasol, who is averaging 19.1 points and 9.1 rebounds, admitted he and Fizdale “didn’t see eye to eye all of the time”.

“But we both had the same intentions of making the team a collective thing,” he said. “We couldn’t find the formula to do that.”

J.B. Bickerstaff was named interim coach and Wallace said he will keep the position for the rest of the season.

Bickerstaff went 37-34 as interim coach of the Houston Rockets in 2015-16 after Kevin McHale was fired nine games into the campaign.

© Agence France-Presse

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