Grizzlies coach David Fizdale proved he has his players' backs with his postgame rant Monday night. His team wants him to know the feeling is mutual.
After the NBA announced Fizdale would be fined $30,000 for being highly critical of the officiating in the Grizzlies' Game 2 loss against the Spurs, Memphis guard Mike Conley sent a message to Fizdale showing his appreciation. According to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal, Conley texted Fizdale early Tuesday morning to say "thank you" and inform him players would collectively pay for his fine.
"We told him right away, you're not going to have to pay that," Conley said, per the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger.
As Fizdale noted following Game 2, the Spurs (31 of 32) more than doubled the Grizzlies' output from the free-throw line (13 of 15) while Kawhi Leonard outshot Memphis by himself (19 of 19). Fizdale could have been genuinely upset with the lack of foul calls he felt his players earned near the basket. But his words also served a larger purpose.
With the Grizzlies attempting to crawl out of an 0-2 hole against a team that is simply better on paper, Fizdale did his best to light a fire under his team and let them know in no uncertain terms, "I'm not done fighting, and you guys aren't either." Taking the fine for his comments may get Memphis a few extra calls here and there before the series ends, but it will undoubtedly endear him to everyone in the locker room, from Conley and Marc Gasol all the way down to Jarrell Martin and Wade Baldwin IV.
It also serves as a rallying cry and source of motivation for the "Grit and Grind" crew, which is particularly important when playing a team such as the Spurs. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has built up such a great deal of respect around the league it's almost difficult to really want to crush the Spurs. They don't have someone who shimmies after a made 3-pointer like Stephen Curry or James Harden. There is no "King" to dethrone like LeBron James. There's not much trash talk traded back and forth. Go out, get 50-plus wins in the regular season, compete for a title, repeat.
Fizdale gave his players a little extra push by saying, "They're not gonna rook us." The first-year head coach is tapping into every underdog story in order to drive the Grizzlies toward a rare comeback. If it doesn't work, what's the harm? If Memphis does steal a couple games or somehow the series, it'll be looked at as a turning point.
Not to completely discount the importance of strategy, but a lot of coaching comes down to more than drawing Xs and Os. Fizdale understands that. Sure, the rant cost him $30,000, but he may have gotten much more back in return.
Take that for data.