Not everyone likes Lionel Hollins. That's not a surprise. He can be demanding and volatile.
In a Jonathan Abrams profile published Wednesday in Grantland, Kyle Lowry talks openly and angrily about his experience under Hollins, claiming he and the Grizzlies treated him unfairly and suggests Hollins wrongly accused him as a bad guy, a reputation that was hung around his neck until his breakout year in Toronto.
After being drafted at No. 24 in the 2006 NBA Draft, Lowry had a hard time adjusting after suffering a broken wrist his rookie year. Then, the Grizz drafted Mike Conley Jr. at No. 4 the next year, shocking him. The two co-existed uneasily until the Grizzlies hired Hollins, who decided to give Conley Jr. more minutes
In early 2009, Lionel Hollins was named the team’s head coach and Lowry was told that the team would devote the starter’s minutes to Conley. Lowry was unhappy with his role, and some in the organization considered him a bad influence on the roster, a description that still upsets him. "Lionel didn’t say shit to me," Lowry said. "It was crazy. I’m twenty-two, twenty-three years old. How am I a bad influence on guys who are older? I just wanted to play basketball … I’m not trying to be on somebody’s bad side. But I think Lionel just needed a scapegoat and I was the young guy and I had a little bit of an attitude. Who wouldn’t have an attitude who’s trying to play? You’re not even giving me a chance to play."
Whether Hollins was the problem -- or Lowry (who did have run-ins with coaches at Villanova and later with Kevin McHale), there's more than a bit of contradiction in Lowry's argument re Hollins. Hollins did reduce Lowry's minutes in favor of Conley Jr, but the two barely worked together. They hardly had enough time to even get to know one another ... and Lowry's rep in Memphis preceded Hollins arrival.
Hollins only coached Lowry for three weeks -- 11 games -- between the time the Grizzlies hired Hollins on January 25, and when they traded Lowry on February 19 to Houston for a draft pick and some other pieces.
And Hollins hardly needed a scapegoat 11 games into his new career in Memphis. He had just been hired to a two-year deal and his job was not winning but rebuilding. Finally, the Grizzlies were certainly justified in choosing Conley Jr. over Lowry. While Lowry did well in Houston and later in Toronto, Conley was more consistent and a much better defender.
- You Can Count on Me - Jonathan Abrams - Grantland