For Mike Conley to confirm that David Fizdale and Marc Gasol weren’t the best of friends, you know the relationship between player and coach must’ve been bad.
During an extensive interview with the Commercial Appeal‘s Ronald Tillery, the point guard didn’t sidestep the string of rumors emanating from the Memphis Grizzlies organization. He told Tillery that Gasol and Fizdale “had their differences,” and that their relationship “wasn’t at its best” when the former was fired:
Q: Did you get the sense that the relationship between Fizdale and Marc Gasol was irreparable?
A: They had their differences at different times during the year. That happens with any coach. It just so happens that their relationship wasn’t at its best at the time we needed it to be, especially when the microscope was on us and we’re losing games. Unfortunately, it got to this point. Who knows how it could’ve been fixed if the decision (to fire Fizdale) didn’t get made? It is what it is. We just have to deal with it.
Q: Have you mediated in that situation?
A: That’s my second job, man. I am the mediator for everybody. I’m a part-time psychologist. I was in the middle of trying to help steer things in the right direction with them, and that goes for everybody on the team.
Conley also goes on to admit that he continued to try mediating the situation and diffusing tension after Gasol was benched during the Grizzlies’ recent loss to the Brooklyn Nets. That clearly didn’t work, because Fizdale was fired the next day.
And in making that decision, the Grizzlies planted their flags in the corners of Gasol and Conley. Though Conley only speaks about Fizdale in glowing terms, he gets tethered to Gasol, because they’re both franchise pillars. If the team is going to move one, they’ll be open to dealing the other one. No rebuild makes sense without that logic.
Canning Fizdale was, and remains, a harbinger of the Grizzlies’ commitment to remaining competitive now. Things could change with the majority ownership up in the air, but right now, this decision isn’t one the team makes without wanting to hold onto both Conley and Gasol, in addition to whatever hope they have of remaining relevant in a Western Conference threatening to leave them behind.