Lionel Hollins: When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong

USA TODAY Sports

What is Lionel Hollins trying to accomplish by voicing his displeasure at every opportunity? Is he right?

Lionel Hollins is a man who is not afraid to speak his mind. When you ask him a question, he tells you the answer. So last night, after a 96–90 loss to the Suns in which Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola had their way with Marc Gasol, somebody asked him about the interior defense, and he said this[1]:

One of the issues that I have is that neither Darrell or Ed (Davis) are fives. We don’t have another big guy. We weren’t able to play big and have two bigger people across the board because we don’t have a bigger guy to put in the game.

Given that Hollins was already outspoken about over-reliance on analytics in making lineup changes and about the trade of Rudy Gay to the Raptors which happened after he lobbied to keep the team together, this latest comment about what he doesn’t like about the team seems to just be par for the course.

Which is where we get to the title of this piece. You guys all watched Chapelle’s Show, right? Remember the segment "When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong," where people get themselves in a lot of trouble by not being able to hold their tongues?

Isn’t that what Hollins is doing here?

He’s widely known for being a man who doesn’t hesitate to call it like he sees it. Most of the time, this is a good quality, something that makes him honest and forthright where others might not be willing to do so.

But in this case, what is he trying to accomplish? We get it. He didn’t want Rudy Gay to be traded, but that trade made sense from a basketball perspective and a financial one. It’s done. It’s over.

While the roster was overturned, Tony Wroten came in and played some good minutes — and, since he’s a rookie, he needs real NBA minutes to develop — and Jerryd Bayless damn near went supernova once being moved to the 2-guard spot freed him up from being the primary ball handler. As soon as the new guys — Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, and Austin Daye — get here, what does Hollins say?

He says Wroten is probably headed back to Reno to play in the D-League. And he moves Bayless right back to the backup PG spot where, quite frankly, he was about as effective as a dead cat.

If everyone on Earth can see that Wroten needs minutes to develop, and that Bayless is better off the ball, why does Hollins insist on doing what he wants, which is apparently to bury Wroten and force Bayless to deal with being the backup PG? Isn’t that insistence on using a shooting guard as a backup point guard exactly what killed O.J. Mayo’s series against the Clippers last year?

And what good does it do to complain about the roster? How could that possibly be good for morale? Mike Conley and Marc Gasol both had terrible nights last night. Gasol has been playing badly for a while now — disappearing for long stretches, looking out of it. And how in the world did Zach Randolph have 17 and 11 in the first three quarters last night, and only get one shot in the fourth?

After the game, Z-Bo had this to say:

"That’s what coach wants," said Randolph. "Our game is pick-and-roll now."

You think he’s happy about that? You think Zach Randolph is going to stay happy on a team where he’s now The Guy since Rudy Gay is gone, but plays aren’t getting called for him? And if the plays are getting called for him, why are Conley and Bayless incapable of getting the ball to him?

Whatever Hollins’ agenda is here, I hope he knows what he’s doing. Because his insistence on not playing the new guys — except for Austin Daye, who was very, very bad last night in his 7 minutes last night, looking completely confused — and his continual needling of the front office in the media[2] is going to get him gone.

And maybe that’s what he wants. To be gone. And maybe that’s what the offense of this team needs. But I’d like to think that’s not the case. I’d like to think everyone can get on the same page, this team can gel, the offense can sort itself out a little bit, and the Grizzlies can be the world-beaters we saw in November.

But, at this rate, things look like they’re starting to unravel, and Keeping It Real appears not to be the best strategy for mending whatever disconnects are currently sinking this Grizzlies squad.


  1. Post-game quotes from this column by Geoff Calkins for the Commercial Appeal.

  2. Let’s be clear here: I like the fact that Hollins says what he means and means what he says. But there’s a thing called tact which I think he could benefit from in some of this stuff, because his insistence on blunt honesty about his opinions is doing nothing but making him look petty and bitter here.

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