HANG TIME, Texas — Yes, it was about the money.
The Grizzlies had given far too much of it to Rudy Gay, a guy who was sitting on the sidelines nursing a bad shoulder when they scratched out the only playoff series win in franchise history.
That’s not to say that Gay hasn’t been a nice player during his six-plus seasons in the NBA; the kind who could often fill up the basket and make it look easy.
But that was the trouble. The Grizzlies have carved out their place, if tenuous, in the upper half of the Western Conference. Like Tina Turner and her band: they never, ever do anything nice and easy.
Gay has been barely shooting 40 percent from the field this season, checking it at a myopic 31 percent from 3-point range. For a player taking such a big bite out of the payroll, Gay too often seemed to drift, which was the rap as far back as 2006 when he was drafted eighth overall out of UConn.
Now the Grizzlies get veteran Tayshaun Prince, who can knock down the 3s, play solid defense and do all of the dirty work/little things, if he’s still so inclined at 32. They also get Ed Davis’ ability to finish at the rim and a couple of contracts that are far more palatable.
In short, the Grizzlies saved themselves a bundle and in a roll-of-the-dice way may have gotten some answers for a team whose chances to reach the NBA Finals this season were probably closer to a scratch-off lottery ticket than money in the bank.
Now the question is whether they’ll do the right thing by coach Lionel Hollins, who’s been allowed to quack like a lame duck without a new contract all season.
While the new ownership group (which is led by Robert Pera and celebrity pals Justin Timberlake and Peyton Manning) and the management team (which includes stat guru John Hollinger) are clearly making their mark on the operation, it is Hollins who has already placed his stamp on the Grizzlies.
Yes, he’s often cranky and challenging. But those are the same attributes that describe the Grizzlies when they’re at their best. A lot of coaches talk about professionalism and accountability, Hollins demands it. He learned during his playing career from championship teams in Portland and Philadelphia that sacrifice and teamwork are not just to be valued, but expected.
Much was made of Hollins recent statement when he said: “We get hung up on statistics a little too much, and I think that’s a bad trait all over the league.”
Was it a shot at Hollinger and the new regime? Or simply Hollins being Hollins? Likely a little bit of both.
In the four years since Hollins has been on the Grizzlies bench, he has pushed, prodded, cajoled, driven and turned the quaint little franchise in the league’s smallest market that had never won a single playoff game into a “Grind House” team which Memphis could support. He did it by making the Grizzlies a reflection of his own personality, often flinty and contrarian.
This is Hollins’ team, even if they change pieces, because they share his DNA. You can’t have the “Grind House” without the head grinder.