Miami Heat

Ex-Spoelstra assistant Fizdale has Grizzlies on a tear

Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale calls to players in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves Sat., Nov. 19, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn.
Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale calls to players in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves Sat., Nov. 19, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. AP

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has been asked about it so often recently that it has almost become tiresome.

Spoelstra faced off against his former assistant coach, David Fizdale, on Friday night at FedEx Forum when Miami took on a red-hot Memphis Grizzlies team.

Fizdale was hired last May to take over as Grizzlies coach, and the results after his first 15 games have been solid.

The Grizzlies (10-5) have won their past six games.

“We’ve spoken enough to each other the last few years,” Spoelstra said. “We spent some time together [Thursday night]. He and his wife came over. I guess to steal a line from LeBron James, neither one of us is supposed to be here, so that’ll be a symbolic tip of the hat.”

Memphis has found out that the Fizdale, 43, is driven not just to compete for postseason play but also for championships.

“When I met with Fiz the first time during free agency, the one thing that knocked me out was he talked about winning championships,” Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley said. “And the thing about it was I could read his facial expression and tell he was serious.”

Spoelstra said he has a special bond with Fizdale, referring to both of them as unlikely candidates for the NBA.

“There are only 30 jobs in this league,” Spoelstra said. “You have to have great character and be in the right situation at the right time. We’ve both overcome a lot to get where we are.”

PERSPECTIVE

Losers of eight of their past 10, Heat players and coaches are fighting frustration. It’s a matter of perspective, according to Spolestra.

“We had a good day of work [Thursday] as a staff before our Thanksgiving dinner,” Spoelstra said. “We really feel we need to get back to the basics, particularly defensively. There is a lot I’ve got to be thankful for. I’ve got to get better at that. Sometimes I lose sight of that. [Thanksgiving] was just a good day for me to get things back in perspective.”

DENTAL WORK

Point guard Tyler Johnson, who lost one of his front teeth two games ago, said he will wait until the team returns home after Friday night’s game to have dental work.

“Actually, I lost this tooth in college before, and I was able to play without it,” Johnson said. “There’s a part up in my gums that broke, too. I don’t know yet if they’ll have to take that out and put a whole new tooth in or what.”

TOUGH TASK

Heat center Hassan Whiteside had a challenge at center, going against former All-Star Marc Gasol.

“The thing that’s different about defending Marc is that [the Grizzlies] involve him so much in everything they do offensively,” Whiteside said. “He’s also one of the most fundamentally sound players in the league.”

THIS AND THAT

▪ The Grizzlies were without forward Zack Randolph on Friday night after his mother passed away Thursday.

▪ Spoelstra said point guard Goran Dragic was questionable for Friday night’s game because of a lingering elbow injury. Also questionable for the Heat was Dion Waiters, who fell hard to the floor two games ago and is dealing with an aching back and sore hip flexor.

Spoelstra said he was not sure who would fill in for Dragic.

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