The road to his first NBA head coaching job was long and difficult. David Fizdale was convinced Pat Riley didn’t know his name when he worked as the video coordinator for the Miami Heat. Fizdale can laugh about it now because his patience was rewarded with the opportunity to coach the Grizzlies.
Fizdale spent years as a hot prospect with the Hawks and the Heat, but NBA teams are sometimes hesitant to take chances on first-time coaches, especially those without NBA playing experience. So Fizdale, 42, said he will cherish this chance and bring the wealth of knowledge he acquired from Riley, Mike Woodson, and Erik Spoelstra to try to push Memphis to the next level.
“I was supposed to keep my mouth shut after I met with [Grizzlies owner] Robert Pera, and the next morning he called me and said we want to offer you the job,” Fizdale said. “I told my wife and she was ecstatic. I hadn’t told anybody else but somehow it got out, so by the time I landed my phone went crazy. I just let it sit because I couldn’t keep up with the buzzing.
“The first call I get was Dwyane Wade, Gabrielle Union, Chris Bosh, and Adrienne Bosh, all on vacation together. They were almost in tears for me on the phone. So when you get that kind of love from guys you spent so much time with, it gets to you.”
And a few minutes after a playoff win over the Raptors, Cavaliers star LeBron James and coach Tyronn Lue texted Fizdale to congratulate him on joining the head coaching fraternity.
“I know a lot of people were rooting for me to get this job,” Fizdale said. “I think the timing was right. The people were right. My mentors just told me to do my job that I have and don’t worry about what’s next and people will notice. And I really tried to pride myself on keeping my head down and grinding my way through this thing.
“You know, there are not a lot of young African-American guys who come through the video room. I wanted to make sure I was one of those guys, not only to live up to that standard but almost make a breakthrough for young African-American men. There is a pathway for you through the video room as well but you have to be willing to do the work. Pat Riley didn’t even know my name in the first year. I was OK with that.”
Most new NBA coaches take over reclamation projects, but that is not the case with Fizdale. The Grizzlies return Mike Conley — the highest-paid player in league history — along with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, and have the newly signed Chandler Parsons. The Grizzlies will be expected to make a deep playoff run.
“That was the only way I wanted it, to be honest with you,” Fizdale said. “I didn’t want to take over a restart. I’m not afraid to coach guys. But I am going to coach them to win and I am going to hold them to a high standard. I was OK with that. If I don’t have any other strength, I’m pretty good at building relationships. I don’t know if people were looking at that Memphis job the way it should have been looked at. A lot of guys in my situation very rarely get a situation with this many proven players.
“I saw an opportunity to take a team from being good to great. If I could have any situation, that was the one I wanted.”
Fizdale played at Fremont High School in Los Angeles at a time when Southern California produced NBA players such as Jacque Vaughn, Kevin Ollie, and Andre Miller. But Fizdale recalls being told about another prospect from Inglewood.
“I remember I came back from college [at the University of San Diego] and I go in the gym and we’re playing and this kid is about 6-foot-6 but he looks like he’s about 10, baby-faced,” Fizdale said. “He’s dominating the gym. And I was like, ‘Who is that kid?’ He was like 14 and it was Paul Pierce. I said, I’m sure I’m going to remember that name.
“That was one of the greatest experiences for me, growing up in Los Angeles, in the basketball world. It was fantastic.”
Jerebko owns his own team
Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko took advantage of a financial opportunity not available to athletes of prior generations. He purchased his own team, an eSports team from Australia called the Renegades that plays Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, or CS:GO.
Jerebko brought the five-man team over from Australia to suburban Detroit to train and prepare for its next event. Jerebko, 29, was an avid video game player in his youth and seized the opportunity for team ownership.
“Sports and computer games were my childhood growing up,” Jerebko said. “Basically, I started off playing all types of games. I started playing CS:GO in sixth grade and it kind of kept me away from partying and going out and doing stupid stuff. It was video games and sports. It helped me stay focused. Playing in the NBA, you are always gaming and you get your work done and you’ve got a lot of hours to kill, so video games come natural for a lot of NBA athletes.”
Jerebko began playing CS:GO again a few years ago and noticed the game and the interest had grown. Jerebko then told his business manager that he wanted to invest in a pro gaming organization. After convincing his manager that it was a serious endeavor and not just a childhood fad, Jerebko was approached by a CS:GO owner during the Las Vegas summer league.
“To mix business with something I have a passion for, and I know and I believe it’s going to grow, is what I wanted to do,” Jerebko said. “I’m very excited about the opportunity.”
Jerebko put the players in a seven-bedroom house with a gaming system in the basement. They practice and participate in tournaments all over the world. The next events are in Ukraine and China.
“I’d say the first word that comes to mind is grateful,” Jerebko said of the players’ reactions. “They were thankful for the opportunity to be able to do what they want to do for a living and especially living in the States. This is a growing business all over the world. This is a global industry and I’m very happy to get into it.”
The Celtics have brought back Jerebko for the final year of his contract at $5 million and he is expected to be a key contributor off the bench after his role expanded during last season’s playoffs.
“It’s been a great summer for me and I haven’t moved from my house, working out one to two times per day,” said Jerebko, who averaged 9.2 points in six postseason games last spring. “We got better this offseason and summer, so I can’t be more excited about our team.”
Jerebko said many of the Celtics have texted about organizing informal workouts in Waltham prior to camp.
“We’re all linking up and everybody is going to try to get to Boston early and get some pickup games going,” Jerebko said. “We’ve got some rooks coming in, and Al [Horford]. Every season you look forward to, but I just feel like we’ve got a great team and we just got better in the offseason. We’re just looking forward to the season because we’ve got a great team to do something special.”
Some global stars are moving on
The Olympic tournament featured dozens of NBA players, many of whom must decide whether they want to play for their national teams in four years when the Games are in Tokyo. Carmelo Anthony, a veteran of four Olympics for the US squad, Tony Parker (France), and Manu Ginobili (Argentina) have retired from international play, but many others are undecided.
One of those is Pau Gasol, 36, the newest Spur and the nucleus of Team Spain for more than a decade. Spain pushed Team USA to the waning minutes in the semifinals before losing, 82-76, and that was without Marc Gasol, who missed the tournament while recovering from foot surgery.
Pau Gasol will be 40 by the next Olympics, but he hasn’t counted himself out of those Games.
“I love the game and I work hard to continue to play at a high level. But as you get older, it gets a little harder, right?” he said. “I feel very proud at the level I can play at this stage of my career and my passion for the game is really big and I love playing for my national team. And we’ll see next year. I take it one year at a time. I don’t get ahead of myself. I always try to analyze how I feel, how things are, and what’s the best thing to do.”
Meanwhile, Luis Scola, 36, is headed to the Nets for his next NBA stop. He has logged nearly 20 years playing for Argentina, but his love for the game won’t allow him to count out Tokyo, either. Ginobili and former NBA player Andres Nocioni have retired from international play, leaving Scola and ex-NBA swingman Carlos Delfino as the remaining members of the “Core Four” that helped Argentina to its only Olympic gold medal in 2004.
“I’ll be  in Tokyo, that’s a lot of years,” Scola said. “A lot of things happened; we started playing with the national team in ’99. That’s been a lot of years. We’ve played for a long time and it’s fun and we achieved some things. We lost some tournaments like this one. But we always fought. We always give our best shot and we always competed.”
Ginobili, 39, left the court after Argentina was eliminated by Team USA in the quarterfinals with the game ball in hand and tears in his eyes. Scola wouldn’t say whether this Argentine squad will be turned over. The club does have a couple of rising players in 23-year-old swingman Patricio Garino, who signed with the Spurs, and 25-year-old point guard Facundo Campazzo, who told the Globe he would like to play in the NBA.
“I don’t think it’s the end,” Scola said. “People keep talking about the end of a generation. This generation ended a few years ago. I know people get really attached to the names, Manu and Delfino and I know how important those games are. And obviously we are close to the end. One day the last one of us is going to be gone and I guess that day we call it finally the end of the generation that won the Olympic gold medal.
“But the truth is we are a team, somebody is going to stop playing now. Somebody else will come. That’s just the way basketball is.”
Ginobili signed a one-year, $14 million deal to remain with the Spurs in what is expected to be his final NBA season. But he has walked away from Team Argentina. He was a Team USA nemesis because of his contributions to the 2004 gold-medal squad, but he eventually became appreciated for helping Team USA raise its standards.
“He meant a lot,” Scola said of Ginobili. “Nobody did what he does, the way he competes for us. But as much as I love him, probably more than anybody else for the relationship we have, it’s just one player. Nobody is bigger than the whole team and the whole country. We’ve got to move on. We have to find new players, and when I’m gone, we’ve got to do the same thing, just as we did it before.”
Not only did Argentina in 2004 shock a rather disorganized and entitled Team USA, which had not been unseated since 1972, it was prestige to a nation that did not even qualify for the 2000 Sydney Games and finished ninth in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
“It’s an Olympic gold medal and you’re talking about Argentina, you are not talking about the US or Serbia or Russia,” Scola said. “It’s Argentina. We don’t have any basketball history, now we do. We have a gold medal and we never thought we were going to be able to say that.”
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Argentina’s run in Rio was that Ginobili, Scola, Nocioni, and Delfino remained key players. Besides Campazzo (team-high 15.8 points per game), no other player outside of the four veterans averaged double figures.
“In 70 years of basketball history in our country, for 60 years, we were between the No. 20 country in the world through 10,” Scola said. “And now all this happened and we happened to be top three for 10 years. The reality says there’s a strong chance we come back to where we were before. Just because along our history, that’s where we’ve been. We happened to have this generation of very good players. And we jumped to top five.
“So what’s going to happen in the future? We don’t really know. Do we see Ginobilis and Nocionis in our guys? No. But did people think in ’99 we were going to be winning the gold medal in 2004? No. Our goal in ’99 for our whole careers was just make it to the Olympics, once.”
When asked again about Tokyo, Scola said: “I’ll be 40 in Tokyo, I’ll be happy if I can walk.”
As expected, the Celtics waived swingman John Holland, giving the former Boston University standout a chance to catch on with another team or even return to the NBADL. But there remains a roster crunch for the Celtics with Ben Bentil and Demetrius Jackson signing partially guaranteed deals, along with the addition of free agent Gerald Green to join James Young and R.J. Hunter to compete for a rotation spot. Green signed a one-year minimum deal, so there is no guarantee he would make the roster with a subpar training camp. The final roster spot could come down to Hunter and Young, and there are plenty of teams that will enter training camp with fewer than 15 guaranteed contracts and could take Young’s deal in a trade. It will be a very intriguing few weeks for the Celtics’ youngsters . . . Kevin Durant will make his Warriors debut on Oct. 1 as Golden State plays the Raptors in Vancouver. The NBA left Vancouver after the 2000-01 season, allowing the Grizzlies to move to Memphis, but there have been preseason games in Vancouver the past several years . . . Veteran point guard Ty Lawson signed a one-year, nonguaranteed contract with the Kings, another chance to revive his career. Lawson was considered a top-10 point guard during his best days with the Nuggets, even becoming a potential target for the Celtics. But off-court issues, including drinking problems and multiple DUIs, led to the Nuggets dumping him on the Rockets, who eventually waived him. Lawson was a shell of himself during his stint with the Pacers at the end of last season, but may be ready for a backup role in Sacramento. Lawson and Darren Collison are the only true point guards on the Kings’ roster . . . The Lakers are working on a state-of-the-art practice facility in El Segundo to replace their Toyota Sports Center that was shared with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. The Lakers are banking that this new facility can help attract free agents after the organization whiffed the past two years on adding big-time talent. The Lakers’ complex is expected to open next summer. Several teams have opened new practice facilities in recent years, with the Celtics expected to open theirs in June 2018.
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.