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VOL. 132 | NO. 229 | Friday, November 17, 2017


Coach Fizdale Must Manage Minutes Early

By Don Wade

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A minute here. A minute there. Just 14 games into the Grizzlies’ 82-game regular season trek, coach David Fizdale is already trying to steal time, to manage minutes, and, yes, trying to make the best calculated decisions he can when weighing the chance to win a game today vs. the potential tax that might be assessed tomorrow.

“You know how in the movies they show Einstein’s chalk boards with all those numbers?” Fizdale said. “That’s my brain with minutes in a game. It’s like I’m trying to squeeze one more minute out of guys before I sub. But it’s a good challenge for me. These guys’ (injury) history is what it is. I can’t, out of stubbornness, do something to risk those guys.

“We can’t afford to lose any of those guys because of me. Things happen. So I really try to listen to our training staff when it comes to that. Is it easy to try and win games and still manage that? No, it’s not. But we’ve just got to make it work.”

Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale in the first half of the game against Indiana on Nov. 15 in which Mike Conley was out, forcing Fizdale to try different combinations of players to replace him.  (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

It did not work as well as Fizdale would have liked against the Indiana Pacers at FedExForum on Wednesday, Nov. 15. Point guard Mike Conley, for the second time this season, sat out to rest his sore left Achilles. Judging by the numbers – the Pacers had 67 points by the half, 97 after three quarters – the entire Grizzlies’ defense decided to sit this one out, too.

In the end, the Grizzlies made an inspired run. But they never gained the lead and fell short, 116-113, as center Marc Gasol’s 35 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and five blocks went down the drain and their record dropped to 7-7.

Just one game, of course, but after a 5-1 start to the season, the Grizzlies have lost six of their last eight and three straight. And that, quite honestly, is with Fizdale sometimes giving in to the temptation of staying with guys when a game is up for grabs. Gasol played 39 minutes against Indiana.

Tyreke Evans had a run of six straight games off the bench with 20 or more points. He was carrying the offense. He had 18 points with nine assists and six rebounds against the Pacers and played almost 33 minutes. But how was Fizdale supposed to manage his minutes even though Evans had knee surgery just over a year ago and has had problems with his left ankle much of his career?

With no Conley – and before that a compromised Conley – it’s pretty tough to win if Gasol and Evans are not playing heavy minutes.

“I left (Evans) out there for 15-20 minutes straight the other night and I can’t do that to him,” said Fizdale, sounding like he was going to confession. “His body is not there. He’s had an injury history. My training staff was ready to kill me, but I’m in the heat of competition and it’s really hard to back off and cap a guy at a certain minute (restriction).”

Chandler Parsons’ history of knee injuries is beyond well-known but, on a positive note, he played a season-high 25 minutes against the Pacers and said, “I feel great.”

Memphis Grizzlies’ Mike Conley during the second half of an NBA game against the Milwaukee Bucks Monday, Nov. 13, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Conley, not wanting to let his coach or teammates down and put more stress on anyone else, gallantly tried to soldier through the pain.

But it wasn’t working. So Fizdale finally sat Conley down and asked him to come clean.

“He just said, ‘It’s been miserable. I can’t push off on it right now because of the pain,’” Fizdale said. “The guy is giving us everything he can, but he’s on one foot right now. So we’ve got to figure something out to get him back to us as fast as possible.”

Although Fizdale didn’t offer a timeline, it could be awhile. He said the Grizzlies would get some other opinions on Conley’s condition. Just last weekend in the NFL, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, after battling Achilles soreness throughout the season, ruptured his Achilles and is done for the year.

That’s the scenario the Grizzlies are trying to avoid. It’s what happened two years ago to Mario Chalmers, who started in Conley’s place against Indiana.

“He’s a big part of what they’ve been doing a long time, both he and Gasol,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said of Conley. “Those are still the two cornerstones for this organization. Most of the offense is going to go through those two guys.”

Without Conley, and with Fizdale forced to employ varying combinations of players, there is naturally more indecision on offense and defense.

Gasol said he is attempting to be the “lighthouse” for other players. But even the 7-foot-1 lighthouse, with his own well-documented injury history, will need some rest from time to time.

Consider it one more concern for Fizdale to manage – minute by minute by minute.

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