The Grizzlies have fallen on hard times with 17 losses in their last 19 games, but GM Chris Wallace insists there is still hope for this season and it’s not time to rebuild, he tells Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.
At 9-21, Memphis is 14th in the Western Conference standings, but only 5 1/2 games out of a playoff spot. Wallace is confident things will turn around when Mike Conley and Brandan Wright return from injuries, saying, “The season isn’t lost.”
Wallace explains the decision to fire coach David Fizdale and touches on several other topics in the wide-ranging interview. Here are a few passages:
On parting with Fizdale the day after star center Marc Gasol complained about not playing in the fourth quarter of a loss:
“In our judgment, it was time to make that move. We’re here every day… We understood going in that we weren’t going to reel off 10 straight wins with that schedule. We want to win games but I want to see improvement. I want to see the team continue to move forward.”
On animosity between Gasol and Fizdale and whether their issues could have been resolved:
“I’m not going to go back into any past history about their relationship. We know there was tension. But I’m not going to delve into our approach. I’m not going to go into their relationship other than we’ve acknowledged there was some tension.
On the job done by interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who has a 2-9 record since taking over the team:
“Obviously, we’d like some more wins. Everybody is frustrated that the wins haven’t come this whole year. But we’re happy with J.B. and his staff’s performance. They’ve organized the team well. Our defense has gotten better. They’ve kept the spirit of the team up. We’ve fought. We’ve been in about every game. They’ve made some positive changes and impact on the situation.”
On potential roster moves that might help salvage the season:
“I’m not going to comment on anything if it was in the hopper. It’s impossible to predict, moving forward, what opportunities will be out there. Any deal we’ve ever done I couldn’t have told you in advance that we’re doing this particular deal. It just doesn’t work that way. All 30 teams have different views of themselves, different agendas. Some are trying to position themselves for the future, some are who I like to call here-and-now teams. The course of teams changes during the season. It would be inaccurate for me to say that we’re definitely doing something or we’re not doing something. We just don’t know what the future is going to hold for us.”
On fans and media members who are calling on him to step down as GM:
“I obviously have a different opinion. I understand why fans are frustrated now. Hell, I’m more frustrated than they are. But I don’t think my time has come and gone. I’ve presided over the best run in the history of this franchise. That window was still very much open at the beginning of the year. I don’t see what’s changed. We’ve got a roster that when we’re healthy and everything is clicking we’re athletic, more versatile and more talented on the perimeter than we’ve been in years. I don’t see how you say that our time has passed as a team or my time has passed as a lead basketball executive.”