Potential Head Coaching Candidates for the Memphis Grizzlies

Dave Joerger has interviewed with the Minnesota Timberwolves for their head coaching vacancy. He was 50-32 in his first season as a head coach.

Dave Joerger has interviewed with the Minnesota Timberwolves for their head coaching vacancy. He was 50-32 in his first season as a head coach.

All hell has broken lose in the Memphis Grizzlies front office with the announcement that Jason Levien and Stu Lash are both out after possibly clashing with majority owner Robert Pera.  This news is unsettling to more than just Grizzlies fans as first year head coach Dave Joerger has decided to interview with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Rumors are circulating about Pera not being a Joerger supporter, and that Pera wanted to fire him midway thru the season during the Grizzlies rough start.

Should Joerger leave for Minnesota Pera is going to need to move quickly to fill the head coaching vacancy before all the qualified candidates are taken.

Here is a list of potential coaches that Pera and the Grizzlies should think about hiring…

Tom Thibodeau
This is the dream hire for the Grizzlies. Thibodeau would be a perfect fit because of his tough, gritty, defense first mentality.  Since becoming the Bulls head coach in 2010, Chicago has been among the league’s best defenses, finishing no lower than third in the NBA in opponents points per game.  As the head coach for the Grizzlies, Thibodeau could revolutionize the defense is played in the association with players like Tonya Allen, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley. Let us also remember this is the same coach that managed to lead Chicago to the playoffs the past two seasons without his best offensive player, Derrek Rose.  Since Thibodeau is still under contract with the Bulls they will need some sort of compensation, which Memphis should be more than happy to give up for a coach of his caliber.  Doc Rivers was traded to the Clippers last season for a first round draft pick and some cash, surely the Grizzlies can package a deal involving a draft picks and some other form of compensation.

George Karl
The 2012-2013 Coach of the Year recipient is still out of work and would be another great hire for the Grizzlies.  He is a future Hall of Famer with an impressive resume.  He interviewed last year for the Memphis head coach position before the Grizzlies decided to go with Joerger.  Karl is known for his ability to get the most out of his team’s offensively, which could help the Grizzlies who are always amongst the worst teams in the NBA when it comes to offensive production.    His 80-105 playoff record is a little concerning, but he has won over 1100 games in his career so it is clear he knows how to coach.

Lionel Hollins
Seems crazy for Hollins and Grizzlies management, right? After all, the two sides parted ways about a year ago after Memphis refused to offer Hollins a new contract.  Yet, if Pera is really serious about cleaning house in the Grizzlies front office there will be nobody left over from that ugly break up in 2013.  Memphis tried the analytics route and Pera was not a fan of it, so he could very easily approach Hollins and say we made a mistake please come back.  He could then make Hollins coach and even give him a position in the Grizzlies front office (I have a feeling that there will be more openings soon).  Hollins has interviewed with Minnesota and it is rumored that he and the Cavilers have a mutual interest also, but neither one of those teams are as good as Memphis. Throw in the fact that Hollins is one of the architects of the grit and grind culture and you have a good fit for the Grizzlies.

Mark Jackson
Although he was unable to last as Warriors head coach Jackson is still a hot commodity among organizations looking for a quality man to lead their team.  Golden State won 50-plus games this year for the first time since 1993 and made it to the playoffs before being ousted by the Clippers.  Jackson was instrumental in the development of young guards Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and he can help Conley make the jump to elite point guard status.  Not only will he help Conley, but Jackson will inject some much needed offensive spark into a team that needs to become more efficient on that side of the ball.

CJ Hurt covers the NBA for MemphiSport. Follow him @conradicalness for live tweets from games.

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5 Reasons Grizzlies Fans Should Not Panic

Photo by Michael Cardwell

Photo by Michael Cardwell

The Memphis Grizzlies have started this year much slower than everyone expected.  They are 3-3 with two of their losses coming against teams that failed to make the playoffs last year.

With the exception of their victory over the Warriors, the Grizzlies looked unimpressive in their wins.  They needed overtime in their first home game of the year to knock off the Pistons and a stellar fourth quarter performance from Jerryd Bayless to hold off the Celtics.

Thanks to their sluggish start, a sense of uneasiness is emanating from Grizz Nation, and it is justifiable.

After all, this is the same team that had the best defense in the NBA a year ago, made it to the Western Conference Finals, returns essentially all of the same players, and last season lost only one game the entire month of November.   They should not be performing this poor right?

Right, but it is too soon to hit the proverbial panic button.

Here are five reasons why it is too soon for the Grizzlies to panic…

Mike Conley’s continued improvement:
During the Grizzlies less than inspiring start Conley has continued his rise to the top of the NBA’s best point guards list.  He is emerging as a serious threat for the Grizzlies on the perimeter, averaging just over 20 points and close to six assists per contest.  Conley is doing a better job of finishing around the rim, and continues to be a disruptive force on the defensive side of the ball averaging 1.6 steals so far on the year.    The evolution of Conley’s game will take significant pressure off of the big men in the post, and cause significant matchup problems for opposing teams.

Memphis has managed to make the playoffs in past seasons despite slow starts:
Last year’s start for the Grizzlies was more of an anomaly than the norm for the franchise.  During the 2011-2012 campaign, Memphis was 14-14 with a little more than half of the schedule left to play (there were only 66 games that year due to the lockout) before going on a 27-11 tear to close out the year.  In fact the last month of the season saw the Grizzlies go 13-3 to secure the fourth seed in the West.  The year before that the Grizzlies started 2-1 before losing three straight games to fall under the .500 mark on November 5th.  Memphis did not reach .500 again until January 29th (nearly three months later) after their win over the Wizards, and they never looked back.  After that game Memphis went 22-12 in route to securing the number eight seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.  While this season’s slow start is not ideal, it is nothing that this group of Grizzlies players are not accustomed to and can overcome.

There are enough tradable assets for the Grizzlies to make a move and fill a need if necessary:
Some fans might not like thinking about the possibility of a trade, but it may be necessary to fill some of the Grizzlies needs.  Sure it may be hard to trade a fan favorite like Quincy Pondexter, or players with potential like Ed Davis or Nick Calathes, but people will not mind as much if it makes the team better.  Moving some of the young and talented players on the roster to get more consistent shooting is always an option before the trade deadline, and you never know what happens if you add the right piece.

It is going to take time for the players to get use to a new coach:
Even though he was hired to keep some continuity in the franchise, Coach Joeger is still a new coach.  Several of the players on the team are used to former coach Lionel Hollins style of coaching and way of playing, especially since Coach Hollins has coached core players like Conley and Marc Gasol for most of their careers.  It is going to take some time for the players to get used to the expectations and style of a new coach.    

They have over 70 games left to play:
Sure if the season ended today the Grizzlies would be  a half game out of the final playoff spot, but the season is not ending today and they have over 70 games left on the schedule.  If the season ended today the Suns and the Trail Blazers would be in the playoffs.  Not only would Phoenix and Portland be in the playoffs, but they would be the fourth and fifth seeds in the West ahead of the Clippers, Rockets, Warriors, and Grizzlies (four teams that made the playoffs last year).   Let that sink in for a minute.  Not that there is anything wrong with either one of those teams, but seriously does anybody think either will be in the playoffs at the end of the year?  The NBA schedule is not a 16 game sprint like the NFL’s, or a 12 game dash like college football.  It is an 82 game marathon, so everyone should relax and let the season play itself out until the end.

CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him @Conradicalness on twitter and @churtj09 on instagram for live tweets and behind the scenes footage  from games.

 

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Grizzlies rookie head coach Dave Joerger is a familiar face with a new voice

FAMILIAR FACE, NEW VOICE --- Dave Joerger, after serving as Lionel Hollins' lead assistant the previous four-plus seasons, was promoted to head coach of the Grizzlies in June. Memphis opens the season Wednesday night at San Antonio in a rematch of the Western Conference Finals. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

FAMILIAR FACE, NEW VOICE — Dave Joerger, after serving as Lionel Hollins’ lead assistant the previous six seasons, was promoted to head coach of the Grizzlies in June. Memphis opens the season Wednesday night at San Antonio in a rematch of the Western Conference Finals. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Roughly an hour into the Memphis Grizzlies’ recent Media Day festivities, new head coach Dave Joerger walked into the media hospitality room in FedExForum and was immediately met by a throng of reporters, many of whom were eager to find out if he has assumed what they deem a “new voice” since he was named the franchise’s 11th head coach in late June.

Without hesitation, Joerger alluded to his predecessor, former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, whom he admittedly has been extremely supportive in aiding him to make the lofty transition to coaching a Grizzlies team that came within four games of advancing to the NBA Finals last year.

“I love coaching,” Joerger said with a smile. “I really do. To have the opportunity to be an (assistant) coach for 350 games helps me feel comfortable with my voice. And, at the same time, Lionel gave me a lot of latitude to coach the defense, to run drills, to be out on the floor. He encouraged all of coaches to do well. He delegated very well and, as a young guy coming up, that makes you feel confident.”

Whether the 39-year-old Joerger will savor the kind of success he had as an assistant under Hollins the previous six seasons remains a mystery for Memphis, which opens the season Wednesday night at defending Western Conference champion San Antonio at 7:30 p.m. CST. However, given a solid professional coaching resume that includes a number of championships in the minor leagues, Grizzlies majority owner Robert Pera is convinced the organization has found the guy who is capable of ensuring the Grizzlies remain a serious contender to vie for the Larry O’Brien trophy this year and beyond.

“He’s a young guy, he’s hands on,” Pera said of Joerger. “He’s won championships at different levels. When we were interviewing coaches in the summer, I got to know him. And we talked about building a selfless team, a cohesive team with a great culture. We talked about his approach to the great defense he built and also about getting more efficient on offense.”

The Grizzlies, despite enjoying a 2012-13 campaign in which they manufactured the highest winning percentage (.683) in franchise history with a 56-26 mark, was 22nd in the league in offensive efficiency, one of a several notable issues the organization aspired to address after it parted ways with Hollins, whose contract was not renewed after coaching Memphis from 2009-2013. With the key offseason additions of rookie Jamaal Franklin — who will likely back up veteran point guard Mike Conley, former Denver Nuggets big man Kosta Koufos (who was traded to Memphis for Darrell Arthur), and the return of veteran small forward Mike Miller, among others, many within the Grizzlies organization believe the team essentially has upgraded its roster from a year ago.

“We feel this is a team that could do something special,” Conley, the longest tenured Grizzly now in his sixth season, said. “I was telling someone earlier that I think we quietly had a very productive offseason and I think the guys we got fit our team.”

Conley and Co. also believe Joerger is a right fit to steer the Grizzlies. Among the reasons is that as Hollins’ lead assistant

the previous two seasons, Joerger was among those credited for helping Memphis emerge as one of the top defensive teams in the NBA. The biggest question, however, that loomed mostly throughout training camp and the preseason is whether his coaching transformation process will include demonstrating the ability to be unrelenting, let alone challenging his players intensely when necessary.

In other words, does the usual muffled Jeorger have what it takes to rip into this veteran bunch much like his predecessor?

“I think the biggest challenge is him trying to take the lead coaching role,” Conley said. “Sometimes, he’ll have to rip some guys’ heads off and yell at them…something different than what he was as an assistant. He didn’t have that voice as much as Lionel did, but now he has that chance to really go after some guys and challenge some people and we expect him to do that.”

Regardless of how vocal or unyielding Joerger becomes, his players — from the rookies to the veterans — don’t shy away from the notion that he has the respect and full support of his team.

Especially respect.

“Coach got the respect from all the players that’s been here,” said 12-year-veteran Zach Randolph, now in his fifth season with the Grizzlies. “Me, Marc (Gasol), and so on. You know, this is coach’s first year, and he knows he’s got a lot of eyes on him. But from a team aspect, he’s not going to have a problem out of anyone trying to disrespect what he’s trying to do. I’m the easiest person to get along with.

“This is a players’ league and we treat everybody with respect. This isn’t about tough love. We’re coachable, so we do

NEXT IN LINE --- Despite coaching the Grizzlies to a franchise best 56-26 record and their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals last year, that wasn't enough to save Hollins' job. Hollins was replaced by his Jeorger, his former top assistant to whom he still offers head-coaching advice.

NEXT IN LINE — Despite coaching the Grizzlies to a franchise best 56-26 record and their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals last year, that wasn’t enough to save Hollins’ job. Hollins was replaced by Jeorger, his former top assistant to whom he still offers head-coaching advice.

what they tell us to do just like with coach Hollins.”

As the new-look Grizzlies prepare to raise the curtain on what many hope is season in which they overachieve much like a year ago, Joerger relishes the fact that he has been afforded the monumental challenge that awaits him, one that will surely call for him to exhibit his revamped voice now that he’s the main man in charge.

“Well, getting any opportunity to coach any NBA team is a privilege, something anybody would want,” Joerger said. “It’s truly a blessing for me. I think I have a really good group of guys. It’s an easy group to work with. They care about each other. Those things have to continue. We feel like we have some talent. We’re a tough team, a tough out. We’ll play hard every single night. We display passion both home and away. And we hope our home court continues to be an advantage for us.”

Even if he finds himself ripping into players, a component that comes with inheriting the proverbial head-coaching role.

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Rudy Gay wonders why Lionel Hollins still doesn’t have a job

Is Rudy Gay not shocked that his former coach Lionel Hollins remains on the unemployment line? Or did Gay typo last night when he was on Twitter?

While randomly commenting on Hollins’ job status, it appears the former Memphis Grizzlies forward accidentally tweeted “can” when he meant “can’t.”

You be the judge:

Rudy Tweet About Hollins

Twitter: @cerrito
Email: kevin@memphisport.com

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Ed Davis does not care what Lionel Hollins and Ron Tillery think

Ed Davis is not going to play on the Memphis Grizzlies’ summer league team, even though his former coach Lionel Hollins and the Commercial Appeal’s beat writer Ron Tillery both think he should.

Davis, who has played three seasons in the NBA, made it clear today on Twitter that he can improve without playing in games featuring mostly unsigned prospects and players in their first or second year as a pro.

It all started when The CA’s Grizzlies beat writer Ron Tillery tweeted this:

Ron Tweet 1

Then, Ed Davis responded:

Ed Tweet 1

And the conversation continued, leading to a jab at Hollins:

Ron Tweet 2

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 1.42.05 PM

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Who should replace Lionel Hollins if he doesn’t return as the Grizzlies coach?

The situation between the Memphis Grizzlies and Coach Lionel Hollins has gone from uncomfortable to contentious in a matter of days.

It began when Grizzlies leadership decided not to extend the contract of the winningest coach in franchise history during the regular season.  Instead, they elected to wait and evaluate Coach Hollins’ work after the playoffs were over.

Well the playoffs are now over for the Grizzlies after the franchise’s first-ever appearance in the Western Conference Finals, and Hollins is still without a new contract.

Coach Hollins has taken the team to three straight playoff appearances, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals this season.  Yet that may not be enough to save his job. (Photo by Justin Ford)

Coach Hollins has taken the team to three straight playoff appearances, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals this season. Yet that may not be enough to save his job. (Photo by Justin Ford)

The Grizzlies have now given him permission to talk to other teams about their coaching vacancies, and are courting other coaches of their own.

Should Hollins and the Grizzlies decide that it is best to go their separate ways, here is who should be on the Grizzlies short list of coaching candidates…

Avery Johnson:
Coach Johnson is looking for employment after being fired by the Brooklyn Nets in December of this year, and would be a great fit for the Grizzlies should Hollins not be rehired.  Before he took over for the Mavericks, they were seen as a soft and finesse team.  He helped change the mentality and culture in Dallas, turning them into a physical team that played solid defense.  The results were four straight 50 plus win seasons and a trip to the NBA Finals.  His tenure in Brooklyn might not been as good as hoped, in part because of friction with point guard Derron Williams, but he would be great for the development of the young guards for the Grizzlies.  Mike Conley and Tony Wroten would benefit immensely from the tutelage of the “Little General”.

Stan Van Gundy:
The former Orlando Magic coach would be another solid coaching candidate for Memphis, and it is due in large part to his inside out offensive philosophy.  During his tenure in Orlando, the emphasis was on pounding the ball inside on offense, and playing solid defense, much like the Grizzlies do now.  In fact, in his seven full seasons as a head coach (resigned during the 2005-2006 season when he was with the Miami Heat), his teams finished in the top ten of the NBA in opponents points per game six times.  With Van Gundy at the helm, Memphis will remain one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, and continue to grit and grind their way to playoff success.

George Karl:
Reports have recently emerged that Memphis has already reached out to Coach Karl, even though he has been unemployed for little more than a day (says something about how much the Grizzlies bigwigs want Hollins back).  Karl is an excellent candidate, with four decades of coaching experience, and won this season’s Coach of the Year. His Denver Nuggets vastly overachieved during the regular season this year, posting a 57-25 record (good for third best in the Western Conference), and losing just three games at home all year.  What may be more important to the Memphis bosses, is the fact that Karl’s teams are among the best in the league offensively.  Since being in Denver, his teams have lead the league in scoring twice, and averaged over 100 points per game each season.  During the Hollins-era, it is no secret that the Grizzlies have struggled offensively to score (finished 27th in points per game this year), so a coach that can get more points out of his players will be a welcome site in the Bluff City.

Dave Joerger:
Memphis could always decide to keep it in the family, and simply promote Joerger which might not be a bad idea.  After all, he is already familiar with the players, leadership, and the grit and grind atmosphere in Memphis.  It would be a smoother transition for everyone involved, and Joerger is a less stubborn version of Hollins, which would create fewer “minor” verbal altercations between head coach and executives.    Also, Joerger is friendlier to the new wave of analytics that is sweeping the NBA than Hollins (really everybody in the world is friendlier to the NBA’s new analytics than Hollins, but that is beside the point), which is something the front office has started embracing.

John Calipari:
The biggest risk on this list. Would Memphians like to see Coach Cal return to Hoop City?  Cal already knows his way around Memphis and FedExForum. The former Tigers coach has already won a national title in college hoops and would love to redeem himself in the pro game. Plus, he wouldn’t have to worry about illegally paying players, banners being vacated, or more importantly SAT scores.

CJ Hurt covers the NBA for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from games.

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Memphians react to the Nuggets firing George Karl

The Nuggets have fired George Karl, and the Grizzlies have yet to re-sign Lionel Hollins.

Should the Grizzlies brass go after the NBA’s reigning Coach of the Year or should they continue to try and work out a deal with the most successful coach in franchise history? What about Dave Joerger?

Those are the questions Memphians were wondering just minutes after Karl got his pink slip:

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Mike Conley following the Western Conference Finals: ‘We will be back’

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

The historic run by the Memphis Grizzlies came to end after the San Antonio Spurs swept the Grizzlies 4 games to none.  Some people will make jokes about how the Grizzlies got swept, but that is not how most of the Grizzlies players and fans are looking at it.

When Lionel Hollins arrived as the head coach, he had to change the attitude and chemistry of the team.  This off season will dictate the immediate future of the franchise.  The two building blocks of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will be back on the team next season.  However, there are still questions about Tony Allen and Zack Randolph.

Here are the Grizzlies in their own words:

Tony Allen:  “I BLEED BLUE”

  • If you are not back here next year, how do you see the transition for next year?

“It is all in God’s hands, I bleed blue.  One thing I have done is, I’ve made a name for myself  a lot of teams around the league know who I am.  I am focused on being here.  I have built relationships with the guys.  I mean real bond with the guys.  I’ve showed the guys what that grit and grind is all about.  It will be hard to leave the city, where they have shown me so much love.”

  • How special has this year been for you?

“It has been great one.  We lost “Double D” (Dana Davis) and I know he was looking down on us.  I think everything that took off for us.  I am happy with the season we had.  There is no reason to hold our heads down.  We fought hard. We showed the city what winning is all about.  It is just unfortunate to lose four in a row.”

  • On the Grizzlies fans:

“They are the best sixth man of the year.  They have been with us from day one every since I got here.  The fans have always shown us love and we would not have been here without them.  Salute to the fans.”

  • Did you get a cut from all of the growl towel slogans you suggested?

“I really did not care about money or nothing like that.  I just felt like my presence and laying down the foundation on how to win games on the defensive end.  The Grit and Grind should forever live forward in the Grindhouse aka the FedExForum.  I’ve got to thank Chris Wallace in showing to give me that vision.”

Mike Conley:  “WE WILL BE BACK!!!”

  • Describe the love that this city gave you and you give them.

“This city has been great.  They have to endure the good and the bad and they have stuck with us.  They are loyal. They have been there for us.  It means the world to us. I am proud of them for being there to push us through and supporting us when we were not good.  It is tough on us on letting them down.  We will be back.”

  • This team is known for their defense, why were you not able to contain Tony Parker?

“He was in a zone they play so well together.  Any adjustment we made they made another one.  We played well for 18 seconds on the shot clock and he would make a play.  That is why he is one of the best and they are heading to the finals.”

Zack Randolph,I WANT TO RETIRE A GRIZZLY

  • How does it feel to know that it is over?

“It is difficult.  I don’t know what to say they beat us.  The two overtime games could have went either way.  It could have easily being tied up.  We gave it 110 percent.  You have got to take your hats off to the Spurs they have a great team from their bench to their starting five.”

“The city has been great. This ride has been great I hate that it ended like this, but we got to keep our heads up for the things we accomplished for the city and the organization.  Hopefully this core will stay in place and we are able to add a few more pieces some shooters and some depth.”

Marc Gasol: “TOMORROW WILL BE A BETTER DAY!”

  • What were the Spurs doing to keep you from cutting their lead?

“They were getting stops and they were executing well offensively.  They made some tough stops and ran when they had to.”

  • What can you take from this series?

“Tomorrow will be a better than it is right now.  We wanted to win and play another game.  We were not able to put it out.  We played and hustled, but we did not have enough to get over the hump.  They taught us a lesson on how to execute.  We are going to create habits that will work for us”

Coach Lionel Hollins

  • Question: When you came here came here you were able to put your stamp on this team?

“Every coach tries to establish an identity with a team and try to get a team to buy into it.  What I am proud of is I was blessed to have a group that wanted to win.  They did not know how, because they were young.  They did not know how to work hard, because they have never had to.  I tried to show them the way and to put them in an environment that they could be successful.  They did not come smiling saying that great, this is great they came they were kicking and scratching not to do it, because it is easier to do it in a manner which is easier.  They could have chosen to quit and rebel as well, but they choose to fight and they are reaping the rewards for us right now.”

Terry Davis is a regular contributor for MemphiSport. Follow him @terryd515.

Grizzlies fans define ‘Grit and Grind’ for Coach Lionel Hollins

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

Following the Grizzlies’ Game 4 overtime win over the Thunder, Memphis coach Lionel Hollins surprised many when he admitted he doesn’t know what his team’s slogan really means.

“We scratch and we claw,” said Hollins.  “As they say, Grit and Grind… I don’t even know what the heck that means.”

So what does, Grit ‘n’ Grind mean exactly? The guys at 3 Shades of Blue wrote a lengthy piece on the topic,  but Coach Hollins is busy right now and may not have time to read that entire post. So, here are some quick 140 character definitions of Grit ‘n’ Grind from @MemphiSport‘s Twitter followers:

Email: kevin@memphisport.com
Twitter: @cerrito

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AUDIO: Lionel Hollins gives ‘State of the Grizzlies Address’ prior to Warriors game

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

After going 1-3 since the Rudy Gay trade and getting criticized locally and nationally, Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins made a special address to the Memphis media prior to Friday’s game against the Golden State Warriors.

AUDIO:

Click here to listen to the full Lionel Hollins address thanks to our friends at Sports 56/87.7 FM.

For live coverage from next week’s All-Star game in Houston, follow MemphiSport’s Grizzlies writer Andre Johnson @aj_journalist and look for his stories at MemphiSport.com

SEE ALSO: Famous Raptors fan who went nuts on YouTube reacts to Rudy Gay trade on MSL