MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — First-year Memphis coach David Fizdale knew the NBA would fine him for criticizing the officiating in the Grizzlies’ Game 2 loss to San Antonio.
Didn’t matter. This is the time to stand up — or go home.
The Grizzlies trail the Spurs 0-2, and Memphis has no room for errors in any aspect of a game.
“Players in general and coaches pull this card a lot,” Fizdale said Wednesday. “I’m not sitting here acting like I’m any more original than any other coach. But you’re fighting for your team and you’re fighting for your life in the playoffs, and you just don’t have room to let things go into the next year.
“The series can be over, so you’re always going to fight for your guys.”
The NBA fined the Grizzlies coach $30,000 on Wednesday morning for Fizdale’s rant after Memphis’ 96-82 loss to San Antonio in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series. Game 3 is Thursday night in Memphis.
Fizdale blasted the officiating in a nearly two-minute tirade during his postgame press conference Monday night. Fizdale called the work of veteran crew Danny Crawford, Rodney Mott and Bill Spooner “unprofessional” and “unacceptable” in a postgame interview that grew increasingly louder before he slammed his fist on a table and stormed off.
The trio of Crawford, Spooner and Mott have officiated more than 400 playoff games over careers that span more than two decades for each, but Fizdale was irate with their performance with Kawhi Leonard taking more free throws (19) than all his Grizzlies (15) despite Memphis attempting 17 more shots in the paint than San Antonio.
Fizdale’s rant went viral almost immediately with one version spliced into clips from the movie “Independence Day.” T-shirts with his quotes “Take that for data” and “They’re not going to rook us” already are available in Memphis, which has rallied around the rookie head coach and a team at risk of being swept a second straight postseason by the Spurs.
“It’s been fantastic,” Fizdale said of the support. “I have felt that everywhere I’ve went in the city. The text messages. Obviously, my wife is big into social media, so I get a lot of the social media craziness. It’s been some funny stuff. I got to be honest with you. I wasn’t expecting all that.”
In Miami, where Fizdale was part of four NBA Finals trips and two championships as a longtime assistant to Erik Spoelstra, the already-infamous rant was applauded by Heat President Pat Riley.
“I was proud of what Dave Fizdale did, being a former coach here,” Riley said Wednesday at his end-of-season address. “I don’t care what anybody thinks. I think he went in and fought for his players, fought for his city. I think everything he had to say had truth to it — real truth to it. And he took a hit for it. … I’m glad he’s got some Heat DNA in him from that standpoint.”
The Grizzlies had guard Mike Conley act as team spokesman and text Fizdale around 4 a.m. Tuesday, thanking him for standing up for them. Conley needed 13 stitches below his right eyebrow after colliding with Leonard in the fourth quarter of a loss April 4 with the Memphis guard given an offensive foul.
“We don’t normally say anything about anything, so I think Coach just finally just had enough, kind of got to a boiling point,” Conley said.
Veteran forward Zach Randolph said the players have Fizdale’s back.
“Everything he said was true,” Randolph said. “He stuck up for us, and that’s the penalty we got to pay. But it’s the truth.”