Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol vowed to remain professional after being benched in Sunday’s 98-88 loss to the Nets.
But the three-time All-Star also made it clear that he was less than pleased with coach David Fizdale’s decision to sit him for the final 15:05, including the entire fourth quarter, as the Grizzlies’ losing streak stretched to eight games.
The Grizzlies fired coach Fizdale on Monday afternoon.
“Obviously, it’s a situation I’m not used to, and I don’t want to get used to — ever,” Gasol told The Commercial Appeal. “At the end of the day … I hate not playing. That’s what I value most. I’m not on the floor, it means I’m not valued. I’m sure they knew that would hurt me the most. I’m sure they wouldn’t do it to Mike (Conley). It’s just the way it is, and you have to deal with it.
“I do not know the ‘why.’ I just have to continue to lead by example for the young guys. It’s easy to say (what to do) when it’s somebody else. But now that I’m the one in this awkward situation, I have to show them how to react. I don’t like it one bit, and I’m more (angry) than I can ever show. But for the benefit of the team, I have to show leadership and continue to do my job.”
Gasol was substituted for good with 3:05 remaining in the third quarter. The Grizzlies trailed by 17 at that point, and never got closer than five the rest of the way. This is their longest losing streak since a comparable eight-game skid in 2009, near the end of Gasol’s rookie season.
Gasol, 32, has blossomed in the ensuing decade, becoming a three-time All-Star and the 2012-13 Kia Defensive Player of the Year while helping the Grizzlies make the playoffs in each of the past seven seasons. But age and injuries have taken their toll this season with Conley missing six straight games to soreness in his left Achilles and Zach Randolph, Gasol’s long-time frontcourt partner, leaving via free agency as his 40s approach.
Fizdale said the benching “is nothing against (Gasol).”
“Sometimes when you take a risk, you may (upset) a player or two,” Fizdale told The Commercial Appeal. “That’s part of this position. I can own the decision and I have my reasons why. I’m trying to win a game. I’m desperate.”
Gasol said Fizdale had not provided an explanation immediately after the game, nor did he expect one.
“I don’t know if there’s anything to be said,” said Gasol, who finished with 18 points on 6-for-17 shooting. “I’m more of an action guy. I don’t believe in words. They’re just that. I believe more in actions. I’ll see what people do and act accordingly.
“We have to play. We can’t keep looking to the sideline for answers. They can’t help you. They just can’t. We have to work through things they tell us to do, try to be more consistent and disciplined with it. We have to figure out how to get five guys doing their job. You can’t give up.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report