Lionel Hollins expects he will be back as Grizzlies coach

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Watching the way the Memphis Grizzlies are playing these playoffs, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Lionel Hollins on the bench with them.

But his contract is up this year. And the team’s new owner has put in a young, numbers-friendly group in the front office (remember, they hired John Hollinger from ESPN), while Hollins this season went on a mini-rant about he doesn’t buy into the NBA’s statistical revolution.

So while you see the places of possible friction, it is all working right now. And with that, Hollins told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN he expects to be back next season.

“The only conversations we’ve had is they said they wanted me back,” Hollins told ESPN. “After we lost the first two games to the Clippers, we had a friendly conversation about the series and how they just wanted me personally to know that regardless of what’s being said out there, this is how they felt.

“That was great.”

Hollins has been part of building what is going on in Memphis and he doesn’t want to leave that.

“There’s no question,” Hollins told ESPN, when asked if he hoped to be back with the Grizzlies after the season. “When you build something, you want to see it through to the fruition of it all.”

Sometimes a little old school and a little new school can work very well together.

Memphis is in a good position these playoffs — they are 1-1 against a Thunder team without Russell Westbrook. If Memphis advances they are a tough matchup for either the Spurs (the Grizzlies size help beat them in the playoffs a couple years ago) or Golden State (Mike Conley and Tony Allen would be the best defense Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have seen these playoffs).

And a deep playoff run (plus teams like New Jersey waiting in the wings if he is available) gives Hollins some leverage when he does sit down with Memphis management after the season.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.