Thursday, November 5th, 2009 at 9:00 am  |  81 responses

Welcome to the Difficult Life of Lionel Hollins

by Marcel Mutoni / @marcel_mutoni

As long as Allen Iverson is coming off the bench — as he did yet again last night — things are going to be awkward in the Memphis Grizzlies’ locker room. A.I. is of course used to these sort of things, having partaken in his share of battles over the years.

Lionel Hollins, though, you should probably feel a little sorry for. He’s more of an innocent bystander in this clash, and is being asked by his boss to nevertheless fix the situation. Prior to the game against the Warriors last night (which the Grizz lost), some light was shed on Lionel’s plight.

From the Commercial Appeal:

Iverson, despite his opposition, will play a reserve role for the foreseeable future. Griz coach Lionel Hollins made that clear before the game. Earlier in the day, Hollins received the backing of team owner Michael Heisley, who was thousands of miles away doing business in the Middle East.

“Lionel will handle it,” Heisley said via telephone. “This is a situation that’ll be handled between Lionel and Allen. What Allen said was inappropriate, but I’m not going to make a big deal out of it. Allen expressed his frustration about not playing and I understand that.” It’s no secret that Heisley made the Iverson acquisition happen. But Heisley reiterated Wednesday that he won’t tell Hollins how to coach. “It’s up to the coach to handle these issues,” Heisley said.

For his part, Allen Iverson more or less reiterated his points from a few nights ago — saying he’s still upset about having to face the shame of coming off the bench.

The team owner brought Allen to Memphis, and Michael Heisley made it clear from day one — perhaps not to Iverson — that he’d be coming off the bench. It’s now up to Lionel Hollins to somehow get this message through to his unhappy star.

Wish him luck.

  • Add a Comment
  • Share
  • RSS

Tags: , , ,

  • http://myspace.com/brandnew Bryan

    From what I see iverson plays better than conley and the team plays better with iverson. Just saying.

  • richard e.

    and how exactly is it gonna hurt them 2 let them start?

  • richard e.

    and how exactly is it gonna hurt them 2 let him start?

  • http://www.twofistedpress.com Pve84

    Well Iverson is a 1-year rental so when thinking long term, it makes sense to start Conley, let him work through his issues, and pray that he develops. Even if Iverson were to start and they stacked up wins, what would that mean for the Grizzlies? A first round playoff appearance (and subsequent exit)? I think starting Conley makes sense. Iverson should have been suspicious when he got into the situation.

  • Renato

    Conley has to learn! He’s never had a true guard whom example he coul follow!!! Let A.I. start and show the kid how the game is played in the NBA!

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    he still doesn’t ”get” it, but it’s hard to make a case for playing conley over him. he’s just flat out better and it showed yesterday. why not let oj run the point? he’s been talking about it even before his usc days.

  • Yesse

    Iverson should be starting, but when he signed with the Grizzlies he said he is willing to come off the bench.You gotta think what you say.

  • LeoneL

    If I can put up more than 20 points any given night, I’d rather play with the second unit where I don’t have to fight for my shots. But then again, I’m not Iverson.

  • cramzy

    i understand letting Conley develop, BUT HE JUST DOESN’T HAVE IT!!! Why not just play the guys that give you the opportunity to win? Even if AI comes off the bench, if the team is better with him, why not stick with him? It doesn’t make since to play Conley just to play him, especially if he hasn’t showed you anything in 2 years. Jennings, Flynn,and Curry are showing more in 4 games than this dude ever has…but again AI, what the hell are doing signing to Memphis? You knew this going in.

  • Jake

    How can any NBA owner think that it’s better to have A.I. come off the bench??If Jason Kidd can start still being 3 years older than Iverson,let alone SHAQ,I think Iverson should be able to start on a team that is headed nowhere.His whole situation is so depressing.A future hall of famer that still has plenty of gas in the tank relegated to being a role player.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    For what it’s worth, AI looked really good last night. Obviously it was absurd for the Grizzlies to sign him, given all the young players they SHOULD be developing. But once they did sign him, they should play him when he is clearly one of their five best players.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    as a fan though you want to see your team win. thats why you go and pay your $32.oo. i dont want to pay tonight to watch my home team trot out a line up that might succesfull next year. you take a.i. for one season PLAY THE MAN. far out…

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Its not about starting; its about MINUTES. Goodness you think Iverson would complain if he was getting Jason Terry/Manu Ginobli type play at the ends of games? He deserves to get more than a mere 17 minutes a game and he SHOULD be in at the ends of games. Why would the Grizzlies sign Iverson RIGHT AFTER the Detroit debacle if they weren’t going to play him–just like in Detroit?
    Co-sign B. Osborne.
    He shouldn’t have signed with the Grizzlies and they shouldn’t have signed him, but the deal is done and he should be seeing his minutes. 18 and 7 on 8-12 shooting is better than Conley’s (who still is developing and no disrespect to him, he’s talented) 8 and 6 on 3-10 shooting.
    But no, Iverson is a chucker who doesn’t pass yet he led his team in assists.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    Apparently Allen Iverson forgot that this was supposed to be his opportunity to show he could sacrifice and be a team player. The entire year is essentially an audition for a new contract with another team, no? If so, he’s failing miserably and I wont feel sorry for him at all when he goes through the same sh*t next summer.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno


  • tavoris

    Myles, that’s all fine & good, but they aren’t playing him in crunch time-and they’re LOSING.

  • http://theghostofroyhobbs.blogspot.com Mo Charlo

    While Myles is right, they also brought him in to sell tickets. People don’t buy tickets to watch people sit on the bench. Unless they’re LA Galaxy fans.

  • http://www.manutd.com Z

    Myles: AI is who he is, for better or worse. This has nothing to do with the next contract or next summer. He’s looking at the depth chart and seeing that Mike Conley is ahead of him. He has a problem with that. There is no need to be sorry for him because it’s clear to me that AI wouldn’t even want to play, say, Eddie House’s minutes on the Celts. Everybody keeps saying that should be his goal but he never said so himself. I give it one more week before he starts for the Grizz or play 35 mins off the bench.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Myles is right. But, since I predicted that it would likely be impossible for Iverson to morph into a “leader” this late in his career, I’m not surprised.
    However, as the game last night showed, Iverson is way, WAY better than Conley. It’s not even close.
    That said, the Grizzlies have bigger problems. OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay despise each other. Those are their core players, something needs to happen with that.
    Early in the game the Grizzlies were balling though, then they just fell apart.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Izzo

    Tavoris: They’d be losing with him. They shouldn’t have signed him. Either they really thought they had a chance to compete for a title by signing Iverson and could sacrifice hindering Conley’s development or they thought Iverson would be okay with playing the veteran mentor role. I don’t know which is more delusional.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Just please start him so he’ll shut up…seriously….


    Fire Hollins!!! It’s that simple, really…

  • TMT

    Old Vancouver fans rejoice now Heisley is getting screwed! Thankyou A I!

  • tavoris

    Izzo, Conley’s “development” was also being hindered by the uber-talented, all-world PG known as Kyle Lowry (sarcasm). He’s the EXACT SAME player he was at Ohio State. He looked a lot better because he had Daequan Cook spotting up on the wings, with Oden in the paint.

  • tavoris

    Izzo, that may b true, but Conley’s development was being hindered by Kyle Lowry also. Dude is NOT a starting-caliber PG.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Conley’s development is being hindered by other people playing on the basketball court the same time he does.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Conley is just tentative, and he doesn’t seem to have the handle to break down most starting guards of the dribble.
    Iverson is on the decline. He can still ball, but he’s become an even more obvious right handed bandit, and he’s lost another step. He can still be effective, but he needs to chill out.
    Like I said earlier, the Grizzlies looked good early, then they kind of collapsed. Rudy Gay is unhappy, it’s obvious.

  • tavoris

    I wouldn’t b suprised if Gay is traded. Mayo is the future of the team, and he & Gay don’t coexist well. Wish that being said, NOT losing to the Kings and the Warriors would go a long way toward keeping Iverson & Gay happy.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    So much for all those ticket sales this was supposed to generate.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    The Commercial Appeal also has a good interview with Iverson where he elaborates more on his stance and his feelings about the team.

  • Cizzo

    The A.I. Canceruos infection is spreading, plus people are tired of the exploits Iverson put on, off te court, on the court, practice…………..

  • bakers’ dozen (12-13)

    Hollins has said he will start him after he gets used to the system. In Denver he didn’t start right away, either. He should view this as an opportunity to get 6th Man of the Year awards, OR that he’ll eventually take over once he’s learned Memphis highly complicated system of dumping the ball to Marc Gasol and kicking it back out to Gay and Mayo (which sounds like a law firm).

  • http://www.garrettelliott.com Garrett

    “I’m just glad an NBA team decided to sign me so I could play basketball instead of sit around all year doing nothing like Stephon Marbury,” Iverson should have said.

  • Carl

    Honestly, I have absolutely no idea why SLAM has always been so sold on Allen Iverson. I get it, he’s a big-time player with a “street” mentality. Something that SLAM desperately wants to identify with. But here’s the facts, Allen Iverson has been on some good teams and has never won anything in his life. The ’04 Olympic team when he was surrounded by a wealth of talent? Bronze. Allen Iverson brings a culture of losing and a culture of immaturity. He can’t even come to these realizations when he knows his career hinges on proving that he’s not a locker-room cancer. Which he is. And he’s proven this…again, and again, and again.

  • NUPE

    Coming in A.I. said what he wanted was a chance to compete for a starting spot. I think he has clearly shown that he deserves to start. So, if I were him, I’d be complaining too. (not in the same way and not to the public) He may be a step slower than he once was, but he’s still good enough to start on most teams as a 1 or 2 guard.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/pennyccw OG

    I’m with nupe on this, I’m the Biggest AI Fan there is…No ?’s about that.

    But he keeps unwittingly giving his haters Ammo, to use aginst him, why complain to he Media, when he knows they really don’t like him & twist even the good things he says & do, If i were him I’d do a Gilbert Arenas & just let my Game talk 4 me. I’d do a 20 ppg, 10 apg, Nation wide campaign, even employ viral marketing & let the Fans be my Voice. & then the Media would be complaining about Ai’s silence but his Annoying Fans, He wait they already do, but instead of annoying, they call us, Loyal, Cult or die hard following

  • Forrest Crunk

    If Mike Conley does not play with Greg Oden in college, Mike Conley gets drafted in the second round and barely gets off the bench for an NBA team.

    Beno Udrih is better than Mike Conley.

    Kirk Hinrich is better than Mike Conley.

    Steve Blake is better than Mike Conley.

    Anthony Carter is better than Mike Conley.

    Daniel Gibson, Goran Dragic, Luther Head, Ramon Sessions, JJ Barea, George Hill, Will Bynum, Jarrett Jack, they all have something in common, guess what it is?

    They are all better point guards than Mike Conley.

    Allen Iverson is better than Mike Conley, and he deserves the chance to help this team actually win games. I don’t claim What is it exactly that the Grizzlies think that Conley is going to develop into? I think that by now, what you see is what you get with him, and by career accomplishment alone Allen Iverson deserves the chance to help this dreadful team out of the gutter and be competitive.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Potentially ruining a young coach and stunting the development of a couple of lottery picks is a small price to pay to appease a former MVP playing on a one-year contract for a marginal franchise. Everyone under the bus!

  • pazov

    iverson has to play. because he’s in my fantasy league

  • tavoris

    Forrest, thanks for documenting that so eloquently (no sarcasm). Conley looked like a quality PG because he had 2 NBA players to pass the ball to at OSU.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    That said, Heisley should have known full well exactly how this was going to play out.

  • tavoris

    but you left off Ronnie Price, Anthony Johnson, Carlos Arroyo, Keyon Dooling, Speedy Claxton, Acie Law, Kyle Lowry, Earl Watson, Jordan Farmar, Mike Taylor, CJ Watson, Antonio Daniels, Bobby Brown, Kevin Ollie, Shaun Livingston, and Mike James.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    If Conley looked so good with two NBA players to pass it to at OSU, shouldn’t he look even better with four NBA players to pass it to in Memphis? Look, is AI better than Mike Conley as of right now? Of course he is. Does AI think he should be getting minutes over everyone on the Grizzlies roster? Of course he does. He feels that way now, he’ll feel that way when he’s 40. That’s who he is. But it’s Lionel Hollins’ job — it’s Lionel Hollins’s RIGHT — as coach, to play whoever he wants to play. And right now the Grizzlies are building for the future. Mike Conley may not be the starting point guard in five years, but AI DEFINITELY won’t be the starting point guard in five years. Or two years. I don’t know. It’s one of those situations where everyone is wrong in some way, everyone is wrong in another, and you wish none of it had ever happened to begin with.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Meant to say “everyone is wrong in some way, everyone is right in another.” Obviously.

  • tavoris

    Russ, you are correct. You’re kinda leaving out the part of Lionel Hollin’s job being to actually win games. Right now, the Grizz are looking like the worst team in the league. Heck, they lost this week to the other two teams vying for that distinction.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Izzo

    Is anyone really disputing that Conley is better than AI? People are just making themselves look silly by denigrating Conley and are missing the point spectacularly.It’s about what’s best for Memphis. Is allowing AI rack up his customary 20 and 6 on his whistle stop tour better than trying to develop a long term prospect at the 1 on a team that’s all about long term potential? But of course AI clearly thought he’d get to be a big fish in a small pond when he signed and now the coach realises he’ll eat the smaller fish. There’s no innocent party here, both AI and the Grizzlies are stupid. There’s already a conflict about who’s team it is- Rudy or OJ and Rudy may be gone soon. I doubt introducing AI to dilute OJ’s effectiveness will help things. AI starting would have a more detrimental effect on OJ than Conley.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    I really think OJ would still get his with AI. I think Rudy Gay is the one with the problem because they haven’t figured out how they want him to get his buckets.
    Zach Randolph is straight with AI, so is OJ. But you throw Rudy Gay in there and there are not enough shots for all those guys. Particularly since Gay is playing for a contract.
    Which was another stupid decision by the Grizzlies.

  • tavoris

    Izzo, it’s more about the fact that their starting point guard has been leading them to LOSSES. I don’t see how 1-4 is good for the Grizz. Heck, if they kept Iverson on the bench, and started Marcus Williams, I’d b happy. Conley isn’t doing the job-or getting better-in his third season. He’s STILL the same player he was at OSU, and if he hasn’t started to improve, it’s because he’s as good as he’s ever gonna be.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Izzo

    Tavoris: How does AI leading the Grizz to say 5-8 more wins than they would normally get a better idea than developing a long term answer at point guard? Maybe Conley isn’t that answer, but AI definitely isn’t.

  • tavoris

    that may be true. I am all for another option. Maybe the similarly talented lefty PG they also have on their roster? the one that’s more aggressive, a better shooter, with a better handle, and more size? By all accounts, Marcus Williams has been playing pretty well. Why not give him those minutes, while also playing AI enough to keep him satiated? I’m all for anything that keeps them from losing to the doormats of the NBA, because they have WAAAAAAAAAY too much talent 2 EVER lose to the Warriors or the Kings.

  • tavoris

    from what I hear, there are a couple of disgruntled PG’s in Portland…Heck, even Jamaal Tinsley would be a better option. Maybe I’m just down on Conley, cuz I haven’t seen him get one bit better. It doesn’t even look like he’s gotten any bigger. He’s gotten plenty of minutes to not play like a 12-year old against adults.

  • Forrest Crunk

    IZZO said: “Is allowing AI rack up his customary 20 and 6 on his whistle stop tour better than trying to develop a long term prospect at the 1 on a team that’s all about long term potential?”
    The answer is yes, if the person you are talking about is Mike Conley.
    If you are going to build for the future, you need to let these young cats see what it feels like to WIN A FEW GAMES behind a battle-tested vet like Allen Iverson, this is not Stephon Marbury we are talking about here, but a former league MVP who took a squad to the Finals that, without AI, might possibly have been lucky to win 25 games that year.
    Lionel’s trying to put his foot down and be the big boss and believe me I understand, he is no Kenny Natt but I’m not sure it is appropriate in this instance. I would hate to be a Memphis fan, the Grizz are in a perpetual state of long-term development.

  • Forrest Crunk

    Jamaal Tinsley is indeed, better than Mike Conley.

  • rog123

    Just because someone comes off the bench, doesn’t mean they can’t get a lot of minutes. Look at ginobili. 2 or 3 years ago whenever he was 6 man of the year, he finished 6 in mvp voting

  • tavoris

    rog-dude, it’s because they aren’t giving him Ginobili minutes. Nor are they winning.

  • Ghoul

    so let me get this strait A.I isnt starting,
    damn hollins

  • NUPE

    AI likely has 2-3 good and effective years left in him (after this one). There is too much free agency etc to build/develop the future of the team too far beyond 2-3 years. The Grizz could see how/if AI can contribute and play with Rudy, OJ and Zach and from there determine who stays adn who goes. Extending AI’s contract a few more years to play with Zach and OJ is not a bad idea. They can use Conley and Rudy as trade bait to bring in the right complimentary talent. Granted, AI won’t be playing 5 years from now but that further in the horizon than they can really work with now. There are plenty of pg’s that can provide Conley type numbers, but it’s still the few that can put of the kind of numbers that AI can (at his current age).

  • doyouwantmore

    LOL. I love it. There is literally nothing and no one in the entire Grizzlies organization I would root for, in any way. Elvis sucks too.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Co-sign Forrest Crunk.
    Izzo, you’re missing the point spectacularly.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    It doesn’t matter who starts–Iverson should be getting the minutes he deserves spectacularly.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Izzo

    Teddy: Coming from you, that’s great.

  • http://slamonline.com tealish

    Hard to defend AI being put off this early, unless they basically told him that this is his role for the entire season.
    I also can understand his frustration. Mike freaking Conley is starting in front of him. Now, we all know Iverson wouldn’t like playing behind anybody, that’s for sure. But I have a feeling if he were told to play behind someone who was actually better than him and better for the team, he’ll concede and play from the bench albeit with a chip on his shoulder. (As if that chip is never there)
    This is just a bad situation that was never going to work. But in the 0.1% chance that it DOES work, AI is a starter. That much I know.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    They should just start AI and let Conley or Marcus Williams come off the bench to start the 2nd quarter and play the majority of the minutes. Everyone wins!

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    If I were Hollins, I’d start AI and play him 48 minutes a night. Every night. Eff it.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    why hasn’t Russ been hired as an NBA head coach already?
    because we need him here for amazing game recaps and insightful comments.

  • BostonBaller

    At this stage AI is still better but he needs to stop being a distraction. He said whatever it took to get a contract knowing that he wasn’t going to honor his word of “playing whatever role was asked of him”. I still love watching him but he has to realize that there weren’t many teams beating down his door this Summer. this should be very interesting.

  • paul

    They should let AI start they are a better team with him and conley is obviously a bust

  • http://www.sixers.com 360vue

    being a sixers fan i genuinely think i appreciate AI more than most, and although hes always had flaws he was a complete warrior so it was all yin and yang. but he’s fast becoming a disgrace. the attitude that coursed through his veins in the years of ’01 and ’04 would deal with being on the bench and persevere and deliver the performances. instead, since being in denver, then detroit, and denver, hes just moaned and moaned. although, hes not always had a fair deal especially in detroit, hes still being far too much of a baby about things. he said he’d retire before coming off the bench, several seasons of being on the bench, he’s still playing… its evident he wants to play ball but he seems far more concerned with putting his opinion out in the media than delivering the goods on court, its paradoxical behaviour, and ultimately, a shame to see a great act like this

  • Shem

    OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay hate each other? Is it over the amount of shots?

  • http://myspace.com/brandnew Bryan

    Shem I thought you were done with slam?

  • tavoris

    Shem, it’s because Memphis became Mayo’s team as soon as he got there. Gay was looking for Durant-type freedoms once Pau got traded.

  • ThaRussian

    last game Conley shot 3 of 10 and Iverson shot 8 of 12, Conley played more minutes

  • http://fjklf.com Jukai

    I got a good solution to this mess— start AI, play him for five minutes, than immediately sub in conley and play Conley for the rest of the game! AI gets to start and his ego is rubbed by hearing his name, and Conley gets developed!


    A.I. came to memphis believing he was going to start…he could have played on playoff bound teams but didnt due to the possibility of him coming off the bench, so why are people shocked that he has a problem with his role…why would an all star come to a struggling team to play a bench role???…if he was willing to play a bench role, he wouldnt have even made it to memphis, he’d be playing in L.A. for the clippers(who actually look like they’ll be playoff bound when Griffen gets healthy)

  • http://fjklf.com Jukai

    In fairness to everyone though, while AI should be coming off the bench for the betterment of the team, I’m a bit confused as to why Allen Iverson wasn’t in during the end of the game.
    I’m not buying this ‘training Conley’ nonsense– they must have signed Iverson for more Ws, why else would they sign him?

  • http://fjklf.com Jukai

    “CARTEL Posted: Nov.5 at 9:46 pm
    A.I. came to memphis believing he was going to start”
    I find this highly unlikely, since it was noted many times by both the owner of Memphis and the coach that Iverson was coming off the bench. Even if no one told Iverson, does the dude not freaking read newspapers or watch his own team’s press conferences?

  • http://myspace.com/mavus15 Mavus

    TRADE CONLEY!!!! A.I. has shown that he is a winner, Conley must be doing something amazing in practice.. cause he sure doesn’t show it on the court…

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Izzo, is it spectacularly great?

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Izzo IS NOT missing the point.

    If I’ve got Allen Iverson on my team he’s my starting PG. TODAY. You bring more people to games, you get your young guards learning about giving 110% on the court (what they learn about practice and teamsmanship comes at their discretion). I would expect that if AI for this one year, plays as hard in practice as he can (going STRAIGHT at Mike Conley), gets the starting nod by the coach and replicates that in game settings, he will leave a fine exclamation mark on an otherwise amazing career. They’ll win games along the way AND you know what, the coach will probably save his own job in the process.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Heisley is watching all this unfold and if anything it will say alot about the coach he’s brought in. It’s one thing to have a coach that young guys will listen too, but if you can captivate and motivate the minds of 10-12 year veterans then your coach is going to be very good. In 2 years time, AI not being here and ALSO Lionel Hollins not being around could be very likely.


  • iLL wiLL

    AI = Artificial Intelligence?