Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lionel, Tony, and the Inevitability of Absence

Posted By on Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 8:30 AM

Author's Note: This started as a Tuesday 3-Pointer and got away from me.

Tony Allen: Temporary like Achilles

When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong Again

Just when you think we (meaning all of us in the Grizzlies Sphere of Influence) have finally moved on, former Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins takes to Fox 13 to give an "exclusive in-depth interview" in what amounts to his first major media appearance locally since his contract was not renewed back in June of last year. You can find the interview (and a written summary of it) here.

Honestly, I'm not sure what Hollins was trying to accomplish.

In the interview, he blames the fact that he was let go on the oft-repeated incident where he went off on John Hollinger for interrupting Austin Daye during a drill. He says Jason Levien didn't want to get to know him. And he also says this:

"I could take them not wanting me but I couldn't take them trying to destroy my reputation and credibility."

Which, I mean... what?

Yet again, Lionel Hollins apparently doesn't understand that if you openly question and/or mock your employer's decision-making, when said employer's management are not the people who hired you, weeks before said employer has to decide whether or not they want to renew your contract, that employer is unlikely to want to renew that contract.

While I was writing for Grizzly Bear Blues I feel like I went over this a million times. Hollins clearly miscalculated, and thought that by being open and honest (read: grumbling) about his disagreements with the front office in the media, he could put some pressure on them to keep him around and do things his way. Instead, he convinced them that he wasn't going to be willing to go along with the way they (meaning Pera/Levien/Lash/Hollinger) wanted to run the Grizzlies, so they hired somebody else instead of renewing Hollins' contract.

That's "destroying my reputation and credibility"? Seriously?

And what team is going to hire Hollins next, given that he is apparently still so mad at the Grizzlies that he has to take to the media to talk about all the ways he was wronged—and all the while refusing to take any responsibility for the "champagne taste on a beer budget" comments around the Rudy trade, the complaining about not having enough bigs (which, I mean, HELLO SIR HAVE YOU MET ED DAVIS), the comments in the press about how Dave Joerger wasn't the defensive coach until Lionel made him the defensive coach...

If anything, it's Hollins who is/was trying to "destroy the reputation and credibility" of the Grizzlies front office. And in the minds of a lot of Griz fans, he probably has. So to take to the airwaves now—now of all times—and continue to bring out the same story about how he was fired when all he wanted to do was get along... I don't get it. I'm not sure what he's trying to do.

The Grizzlies aren't going to hire him back, ever. Detroit fired its head coach—Hollins' friend Mo Cheeks—and his name has appeared in rumors around that vacancy. I heard some scuttlebutt that if Jason Kidd had been fired, the Nets would've been interested. But how is all of this raising his stock as a coach? "Hire me and I'll take to the media to air all of our disagreements! It'll be great!"

Lionel Hollins is a guy who calls it exactly like he sees it. The problem here is that he can't see why he wasn't brought back as the head coach, and there he is, still calling it.

Trading Tony Allen?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports dropped this ton of bricks on us last night:

The meat of the rumor:

The Memphis Grizzlies are discussing a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves centered on forward Chase Budinger and guard J.J. Barea, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Memphis wants to include forward Tayshaun Prince into the package and the deal could be expanded to include guard Tony Allen, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Components of a proposed deal are still fluid.

And Grizzlies Twitter proceeded to flip out. I'm going to parse this rumor and talk some folks off the ledge a little bit.

First things first: Adrian Wojnarowski hates John Hollinger with the fire of a thousand suns. I'm not sure why—maybe Hollinger will fill me in some time—but remember the Rudy Gay trade, when Woj said the Grizzlies were run by "a statistician from a cable company? Yeah.

What does that have to do with anything? It means this rumor/leak almost certainly came from Minnesota and not from Memphis. Which means that of coursethey want Tony Allen. Why wouldn't they? According to the report, Flip Saunders is looking to shore up the Wolves' defense, and you'd have to admit that bringing in TA is a pretty good start in that direction.

But I don't think there's any way the deal, as it stands, could include Tony Allen. There's just not enough there there for Allen to be included at this point, injury problems or no injury problems.

What I do buy, though, is the rest of the deal: Chase Budinger seems like exactly the kind of guy the Grizzlies would be going after. Good shooter, could play the 3 spot, low risk, potentially high reward. If they could turn Tayshaun Prince into Budinger and Barea, I think they'd do it in a second.

Here's the other part that I think they'd do: trade Tony Allen if the deal made basketball sense. (This one doesn't.) Tony is a 32-year-old guy whose career thus far has relied on athleticism who is starting to decline right at the beginning of a four year deal. That certainly doesn't mean he's worthless, but it does mean he's the kind of player that you trade if it makes sense. Courtney Lee doesn't quite make Allen expendable—especially against guys like Kevin Durant and, apparently, Tyreke Evans—but it does mean that replacing Allen with somebody else wouldn't be the disaster Grizzlies fans by and large seem to think it would be.

Back to Heraclitus

But there's another thing it would mean, and it's related to Lionel Hollins popping back up in the media: it would mean that we can begin to bury the ghosts of 2013. The Grizzlies were great last year. The Conley-Allen-Prince-Randolph-Gasol fivesome got the franchise to heights it probably had no business reaching. It was incredible for the city, for the team, and for each and every person who stood in that Forum and screamed until they couldn't anymore.

It's over. It's gone. This is not that. These Grizzlies are still very good, but it's not 2013, and they're not going to face the Clippers and then the Thunder and then the Spurs. It's 2014 now. This is a different season, this is a different team, it's being run by different people. My old friend Heraclitus said that you can't step into the same river twice. Grizzlies fans seem determined to keep 2013 around no matter what the cost. "Lionel Hollins wouldn't have done that." "If they trade Tony Allen they'll never be good again." Et cetera.

This is basketball, and yet now it mirrors Real Life in ways that make us uncomfortable: things change. The old world is always passing away, and always turning into a new one. People aren't around anymore, and we really wish they were, because we loved them and we miss them. But that's the thing: basketball happens in Real Life too. Players come and go. Coaches come and go. And this makes us profoundly sad because we miss them the way we miss all of the other people we miss: it makes us ache for a time when things were good, and we were all sitting around laughing and being together, or we were all standing and screaming while Blake Griffin got choked out by Zach Randolph, and in that moment we were transcendent.

But that's not how it works. And basketball is no more immune to that than any other aspect of our lives. Sooner or later, no one from the Western Conference Finals team will be on the roster. And that has to be fine—because even if it's not, it's still going to happen. Tony Allen is an emblem for the heights of last season, and so we panic when we think about what it'll be like without him on the sidelines. Because we panic when we're faced with absence. But this is basketball, and this is life, and this is Memphis, and so we think "But wait! We were good once. We were great."

And we were. And we will be again. But not if we fight change at every turn. That will only leave us exhausted, and angry, and taking to the television to call it like we see it, when we've been blind the whole time.


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