Grizzlies fire head coach David Fizdale

Memphis Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace today announced that the organization has relieved David Fizdale of his head coaching duties. Grizzlies associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been named interim head coach.

Fizdale was named the 13th head coach in franchise history on May 29, 2016 and compiled a 50-51 record (.495) during his two seasons in Memphis, including a 7-12 record (.368) this season.

“After a thorough evaluation, I decided a change in course was necessary to move forward and provide the team and organization its best chance at success this season and beyond,” Wallace said. “Coach Fizdale represented the Grizzlies and City of Memphis proudly, and we wish him well as he continues his career.”

“Coach Fizdale worked tirelessly to achieve on-court success, and for that, we are grateful. We wish him and his family all the best in the future,” Grizzlies Controlling Owner Robert J. Pera said. “We remain focused on achieving sustainable, long-term success.”

Before joining the Grizzlies as associate head coach in June 2016, Bickerstaff served five seasons (2011-16) with the Houston Rockets, originally as an assistant coach and then as interim head coach, guiding the Rockets to a 37-34 record (.521) to close the 2015-16 season with a berth in the 2016 NBA Playoffs. His previous NBA coaching experience also includes four seasons (2007-11) as an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves and three seasons (2004-07) as an assistant coach with the Charlotte Bobcats under his father, Bernie Bickerstaff.

Steve ‘Snapper’ Jones has died

Steve “Snapper” Jones, former Portland Trail Blazers player, team announcer and later NBA broadcaster, has passed away in Houston at age 75. Family members and friends confirmed Jones’ death this evening following a lengthy illness. Funeral services will be announced soon by the Jones family.

Jones played 64 games in a Trail Blazers uniform during the 1975-76 season, averaging 6.5 points per game in what would be his final year as a player. He was acquired by the Trail Blazers in October of 1975 for a sixth-round draft pick from the Golden State Warriors. The bulk of his pro career was spent in the American Basketball Association (ABA) where Jones was a three-time ABA All-Star and played for five franchises, including the San Antonio Spurs and Denver Rockets (now Nuggets) – both now teams in the NBA. His nine-year ABA/NBA pro career spanned 704 games, with an impressive 15.2 points per game average.

In more recent years, Jones carved a successful career as an NBA broadcaster, including providing color commentary for CBS Television when the Trail Blazers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers to win the 1977 NBA Championship. His broadcasting resume included work for ESPN/ABC, TBS, TNT, Fox Sports Net, USA Network and NBC, where he was an analyst for the “NBA on NBC” for more than a decade. Jones was also part of numerous Trail Blazers broadcasting tandems, including Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame honoree Bill Schonely.

“Steve was as positive and good-natured a broadcasting partner as I could have had,” said Schonely of Jones, who would be a broadcasting fixture with the Trail Blazers for 26 years. “He loved to call me ‘Pops’ as a nickname, and we worked very well together on Trail Blazers games during some of the early years of the franchise. He was a terrific guy.”

In March 2012, Jones was honored at center court of the then Rose Garden arena (now Moda Center) by the Trail Blazers for his years of service to the franchise as a player and broadcaster. Among his Trail Blazers broadcasting partners along with Schonely were Pat Lafferty, Pete Pranica, Mike Rice and Mike Barrett. Jones moved to Houston in 2008 where he resided until his death.

As a collegiate player, Jones played for the University of Oregon from 1961-64, leading the team in scoring during the 1963-64 season. Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, but raised in Portland, Jones was a standout player locally at Franklin High School, leading his squad to an Oregon state championship in 1959. His younger brother Nick Jones, also a highly-touted player at Franklin and later Oregon, played for the Golden State Warriors and was a member of the Trail Blazers Community Relations staff for several years.

Al Horford dishes 10 assists, Celtics beat Magic

Celtics basketball is a beautiful thing this season. And the magic continued, err, against the Magic. Here’s ESPN.com reporting on the outcome of Friday’s matchup:

Before Friday’s visit to play the Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic coach Frank Vogel offered high praise for Boston big man Al Horford, calling him maybe the “most underrated guy in the league.” Then, his poor Magic team got a reminder of why Horford earned those plaudits.

Horford matched a career high by dishing out 10 assists, seven of which came in the first quarter, as the Celtics bucked their season-long trend of slow starts during a 118-103 triumph over the Magic at TD Garden.

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 30 points over just 25 minutes, and Terry Rozier snapped out of a recent shooting funk to score a career-best 23 points off the bench. But it was Horford who set the tone after Celtics coach Brad Stevens subtly reminded his team that ball movement would be key to Boston’s avoiding the first-half lulls that plagued the Celtics even during their recent 16-game winning streak.

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Enes Kanter out with back spasms

Enes Kanter has done major work as a new member of the Knicks this season. Now his back needs a bit of a break. Here’s the New York Daily News reporting:

The Knicks were forced to shuffle their lineup and rotation Friday night because Enes Kanter woke up with back spasms.

The starting center – who often doubles as the team’s emotional leader – was replaced in the lineup by Kyle O’Quinn, but, more interestingly, the injury cleared the way for meaningful minutes from Willy Hernangomez.

It was the first time all season that Hernangomez was the first backup following his demotion to out of the rotation.

“I’ve been working hard every day, I’ve been doing what they told me to do. So now I have this big chance for me,” Hernangomez said before tipoff against the Hawks.

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Ben Simmons will miss game vs Magic

Star Sixers rookie Ben Simmons has a hurt elbow. Sounds minor. Hopefully, that’s the case. More will be known soon, but as for today and tomorrow here’s CSN Philly reporting:

The Sixers aren’t the same team without Ben Simmons, and on Saturday, they’ll see exactly what type of team they are this season without their 6-foot-10 point guard.

Simmons will miss Saturday night’s game against Orlando because of left elbow soreness. Simmons, the early Rookie of the Year favorite, is averaging 18.5 points, 7.7 assists and 9.1 rebounds.

The Sixers said, after reviewing footage from Wednesday night’s 101-81 win over Portland, Simmons appears to have suffered the injury at the 6:22 mark of the fourth quarter. He was in treatment during practice Friday and will be reevaluated Sunday.

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Joel Embiid says fun while visiting LA helped his game

Sixers center Joel Embiid continues to provide fun to the basketball world, with excellent play on the court and fun quotes off of it. Here’s NBC Sports Philly reporting:

Joel Embiid sometimes looks like he’s having a party on the basketball court. It’s no surprise, then, he credits some actual partying with turning around his season.

Yes, that’s right. After Sixers practice Friday afternoon, Embiid said hitting the town in Los Angeles on the team’s recent road trip helped him out of a funk.

“All my close friends live in L.A., so before that, I wasn’t really doing anything, I was frustrated because I wasn’t in basketball shape and I wasn’t having fun on the court,” Embiid said. “So I won’t lie, I decided to go out, have fun a little bit. And that just kind of gave me the energy back, and the next game against the Clippers, I had more than 30 points [32], and then the following game I had more than 40 [46], so I think it’s just about having fun and making sure I can control what I can.”

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Jazz correct pronunciation of Ekpe Udoh

Jazz correct pronunciation of Ekpe Udoh

The Jazz have announced that the accurate pronunciation of Jazz forward/center Ekpe Udoh’s last name is “OO-Doe.” Many listings had the pronunciation as “YOU-Doe.”

Here are other pronunciation guides for other Jazz players:

Danté Exum (DAHN-tay x-umm)
Rudy Gobert (go-BARE)
Joe Ingles (ING-uhls)
Raul Neto (Hah-OOL Nett-oh)
Thabo Sefolosha (TAH-bo sef-a-LOW-sha)
Ekpe Udoh (EPP-ay OO-Doe)

Willie Cauley-Stein scores 26 points vs Lakers

Here’s the Sacramento Bee reporting on the Kings, who on national TV Wednesday beat the Lakers:

The much-hyped duel between rookie point guards did not serve as the main attraction.

Willie Cauley-Stein scored a season-high 26 points as the Kings ended a two-game skid with a 113-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center.

Zach Randolph had a season-high 22 points to go with seven rebounds and seven assists for the Kings (5-13), who shot a season-high 55.3 percent.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Lakers (8-11) with 20 points. Kyle Kuzma scored 17 points.

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Delon Wright out with shoulder injury

Delon Wright out with shoulder injury

Toronto Raptors guard Delon Wright visited specialist Dr. Riley Williams at the Hospital for Special Surgery on Wednesday in New York. After consultation with Williams, it was decided no surgery is required at this time, the team announced.

Wright will continue his rehabilitation with team medical officials. There is no timetable for Wright’s return, but updates will be provided when appropriate.

Wright’s right shoulder was dislocated in the second quarter of a game at New Orleans on Nov. 15th. He had surgery on the same shoulder in August, 2016 after sustaining an injury during an NBA Summer League game in Las Vegas.

The 25-year-old guard has averaged 7.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 20.9 minutes this season for the Toronto Raptors.

Patrick Beverley undergoes season-ending surgery

Patrick Beverley undergoes season-ending surgery

The L.A. Clippers today announced that guard Patrick Beverley underwent an arthroscopic lateral meniscus repair, and a microfracture procedure, on his right knee. The surgery was performed by Dr. Walt Lowe at the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, in Houston.

Beverley is expected to miss the remainder of the 2017-18 NBA season.

Beverley, 29, has appeared in 11 games for the Clippers this season, averaging 12.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.73 steals in 30.3 minutes per game.

“The hits just keep rolling,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “That’s a tough one because you could see him trying to get back. He plays the one game and then his knee was really bothering him. We sent him back to have a look at it and he ended up having surgery, where we thought it would just be the meniscus. It turned out to be a lot more. So he’s out for the season. We just want him to get healthy.”