Free advice to the Nets: Don’t make a coaching hire until you determine whether Lionel Hollins is available to come to Brooklyn.
That could take Mikhail Prokhorov and Billy King right through the NBA Finals, because Hollins’ Grizzlies just might come out of the West for the first time in franchise history. They don’t have to contend with Russell Westbrook in their series against the Thunder, giving them a decided advantage. Oklahoma City had its season go up in flames when Westbrook had his season end by doing nothing more than calling a timeout against the Rockets. The Griz could win the West finals, if they find themselves against Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and the amazing Warriors, or if the San Antonio Spurs somehow find a way to stop that pair from scoring in their semifinal series.
Even if Hollins gets his team to the Finals — can you imagine it parked right off Beale Street? — the amazing thing is that he might not be asked to return next season to coach the Grizzlies. He’s on the last season of his contract and with all the changes that have taken place with the team since last fall — with new ownership and a first-time group of basketball executives who love to base their decisions on all these fancy stats that they call “analytics,” and have little to do with actual basketball — there is plenty of talk around the league that the Grizzlies will look to hire a younger coach whom they can get on the cheap.
Hollins doesn’t have the big name or sex appeal that Prokhorov desperately wants. But he’s regarded as a top-notch, no-nonsense coach who could get the most out of Deron Williams, for starters. And that’s what the next coach of the Nets has to do, first and foremost. If the Grizzlies make the mistake of allowing Hollins to walk because that’s what their stats tell them they should do, then Brooklyn could do a whole lot worse.