The Heat has granted the Memphis Grizzlies permission to interview Miami assistant coach David Fizdale for their head-coaching job, a source said.
The Grizzlies showed interest in Fizdale early last week, but the decision was made for the interview to wait until the conclusion of the Toronto series. A Heat win Sunday could further affect the timing.
The Grizzlies also have interviewed Charlotte assistant coach Patrick Ewing and, according to ESPN, have asked for permission to interview Spurs assistant Ettore Messina. Grizzlies management reportedly also has spoken with former Memphis coach Lionel Hollins about the job.
Fizdale, 41, a former All-West Coast Conference point guard at the University of San Diego, has worked as an assistant for one year with Golden State, four seasons with Atlanta and eight years with the Heat, holding the title of assistant head coach the past two seasons.
“Fiz is a great basketball coach, a dear friend of mine,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday. “He is a tremendous teacher of the game … a tremendous basketball mind.”
Heat center Hassan Whiteside, sidelined the past week with a sprained MCL in his right knee, was ruled out for Game 7 and said he isn’t sure when he will play again.
But he traveled with the team to Toronto on Saturday.
“We just want him with us,” Spoelstra said. “Our trainers are traveling with us, and he needs a lot of treatment.”
Whiteside said the knee is “getting better. Each day passes, I’m feeling better. I can’t really put a measurement on [a target date to return]. It … depends on what the doctors say and how everything is feeling. I don’t really want to make anything worse.”
If the Heat wins Sunday, it would fly directly to Cleveland to begin the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday.
As for Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas, who has been sidelined since an ankle injury in Game 3, Raptors coach Dwane Casey said: “I don’t think he will play in Game 7. His ankle is nowhere close to being ready.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ The Heat is now 8-1 under Spoelstra in home elimination games. In NBA history, only former Syracuse Nationals coach Al Servi (8-0) has a better record. Since Spoelstra became coach, the Heat is an NBA-best 10-4 when facing elimination.
▪ According to The Associated Press, the Heat is trying to win a Game 7 for the fifth consecutive time, something only the Celtics and Lakers have achieved.
▪ Toronto is 0-7 in playoff games when leading in a series, the longest such streak in NBA history.
▪ According to ESPN, the Heat’s Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem and Cavaliers and ex-Heat swingman James Jones are third all time with 10 wins in playoff series in which their teams trailed. Derek Fisher leads in that category with 12; Robert Horry is second with 11.
▪ Justise Winslow, listed at 6-7, became the sixth rookie to start a postseason game for the Heat — joining Steve Smith, Kurt Thomas, Anthony Carter, Wade and Mario Chalmers — and teammates couldn’t stop raving about him, especially how he handled heavy minutes at center.
“Hopefully, this summer he will have a growth spurt and dominate at the [center] spot,” Luol Deng joked. “His screens were great. He went from not playing [in Game 3] to starting [in Game 6]. Mentally, a lot of young guys would have checked out.”
▪ A few numbers to keep in mind if Game 7 is close: Wade leads the NBA with 41 clutch points this postseason, with the league defining clutch as the final five minutes of games (and overtime) with a margin of five points or fewer.
Wade is 15 for 29 from the field and 9 for 10 on clutch free throws in 44 clutch minutes.
All other Heat players have a combined 43 clutch points on 12-for-36 shooting during these playoffs. Joe Johnson is 3 for 12, Goran Dragic 4 for 9.
▪ Dragic’s 30 points Friday were a career playoff high, and Elias says the last NBA player whose first 30-point game in the playoffs forced a Game 7 in the second round or later was Kenny Smith in May 1993.