Normally a team's 2nd overall draft-pick is pampered and groomed with as much playing time and leash as he could possibly want. Whether or not that's a good thing is up for interpretation, but it's pretty clear that Coach Lionel Hollins doesn't think it's the right way to groom Hasheem Thabeet.
Hollins hasn't been shy to send Thabeet to the bench if he's not active out there all season, but today the Memphis Commercial Appeal is reporting that Coach Hollins threatened Thabeet with being sent to NBA D-League if he didn't start bring more effort and energy to the court:
Hollins asked Thabeet if he wanted to go to the NBA Development League or show passion and desire with the Griz.
Thabeet rejected the D-League invitation, and tried to swat away as many Thunder shot attempts as he could. It was the most active Thabeet's looked in several weeks.
Obviously Hollins can't be scaring Thabeet into playing hard every night, so it's kind of a worrisome sign that this was even necessary. But Thabeet's play was definitely encouraging, as he grabbed 9 boards, blocked 4 shots, and altered at least another 4 Thunder looks.
Hollins leadership went beyond Thabeet, though, as he also stuck his neck out to protect Rudy Gay from some baseless trade rumors swirling around ESPN this week:
"Untrue. There's no trade possibility for Rudy (Gay). Rudy is a Memphis Grizzly, and for as long as he wants to be, he will be." Hollins, responding to a question about a recent ESPN.com report that suggested the Griz are willing to trade Gay.
Dispelling this kind of talk early is a way to prove that you're willing to risk your credibility to protect your players, as the Grizzlies front-office would be hard-pressed to explain a Rudy trade now even if they were ever interested. Knowing Rudy's positive attitude, I think he'll take this favor in stride. Hollins smart handling of the situation has not only made life easier for he and Rudy this season, but also might have made an extension next summer that much simpler for the front office.