Forget Jeff Green, It’s Lionel Hollins Week for the Grizzlies

The Grizzlies beat the Suns Sunday in 2OT to snap a 2-game losing streak and move to 26-11 on the season. On Monday, they’ll welcome Jeff Green and Russ Smith to the team and then gear up for the final 4 games before the literal halfway point of the NBA season. The Memphis Grizzlies are legitimate NBA Title Contenders.

With the Green trade finalized and the team moving back to 15 games over .500, these are heady times for Grizzlies fans. But none of that qualifies as the most exciting part of the upcoming week.

The most exciting part of this week? A reunion with former Head Coach Lionel Hollins – who now coaches the Brooklyn Nets.

The Grizzlies play at Brooklyn on Wednesday.

Hollins had his new team solidly in playoff contention and playing .500 ball before a recent 5-game losing streak. The Nets, now in the 8th spot in the East, will be desperate to break their losing streak against the Grizzlies.

You gotta figure the NY media will ask Hollins about the Grizzlies, about the past, about the split. And you gotta figure Hollins will answer the questions. And you gotta figure his answer will be spontaneous, unfiltered, honest and probably hilarious.

Hollins, as you would expect, hasn’t stopped being a quote machine since moving north.

  • Last Thursday, Hollins called Brook Lopez “lazy” after he gave up on a play too early.
  • Hollins has been blunt in his assessment of his current team overall: “We are not a very good team.”
  • Hollins made waves when Prince William and Duchess Kate attended a Nets game earlier this year. Asked how he felt about their visit, Hollins made it clear he wasn’t impressed (from a FTW story, via Netsdaily):

“I don’t like answering those questions. What does it mean to me, or to any normal person? I wouldn’t be crazy even if the Pope came over…unless I was Catholic…. I mean, they’re just people that everybody sees on TV. Does that make them better people? They have more money than you, does that make them better people? It doesn’t make them better than you. I know a lot of people with money that I wouldn’t want to hang with…. They serve their purpose for their country, and they do what they do. If they came in and said they wanted to meet me, I’d be honored. But if they don’t, no sweat.”

That’s Lionel Hollins. He doesn’t GAF about the Prince of England and he doesn’t GAF about telling you that he doesn’t GAF. You really have to respect that. Let’s not rehash the stories about why Hollins fell out of favor with Grizz management and how all that stuff went down – Hollins will probably do that himself this week if someone bothers to ask him, which I’m sure they will. And whatever you think of it, it will be funny, and honest, and refreshing.

So let’s not re-litigate that conflict. Everyone has moved on anyway.

For now, let’s just admire a man who isn’t a corporate mouthpiece. Let’s admire a man who isn’t afraid to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants. And don’t misunderstand that. There are plenty of people in all walks of life who aren’t afraid to run their mouth – but who should be more discriminating because what they say isn’t true, or is hurtful, or hateful or otherwise ill conceived. What Hollins says is usually true, or merely his opinion, and it isn’t typically hurtful – and a lot of times it’s just funny as hell.

Hollins, as followers of the Grizzlies are well aware, is a throwback. Here’s a good piece done on Hollins by Johnette Howard of ESPN New York. In it, Hollins explains his methods, which are more about leadership and bringing about change than anger or politics:

“I am combative. I’m not afraid of conflict or confrontation. I am confrontational,” Hollins adds. “As a leader, you have to be. I mean, what do you get out of people if you just sit back and let them do what they want to do, without any confrontation? My feeling is there can be no change without confrontation. You go back through history, every change had some kind of conflict before there was change. Nobody is doing something different because they want to. It’s because somebody creates conflict that makes them.”

It was this brand of leadership and attitude that, in large part, made the current Grizzlies what they are. The players, the franchise, heck even the fan base – all have Hollins’ fingerprints on them. Before Hollins took over the Grizzlies in January of 2009, they had absolutely zero identity beyond that of a struggling, wayward franchise.

Sure, there are plenty of other people – players, management, etc – who have poured massive amounts of energy and effort into what the Grizzlies have become. But sometimes you get the feeling that Hollins burned so many bridges in Memphis that maybe he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. I suspect we’ll hear more about that this week, too.

But let’s try not to really worry about that. This week, let’s just admire Hollins’ style as Memphians continue to enjoy the product he helped develop.