Lionel Hollins sweepstakes starts now

May, 28, 2013
5/28/13
2:13
AM ET
Stein By Marc Stein
ESPN.com
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The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers have not yet formally requested permission to interview Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins for their respective coaching vacancies.

But it will happen shortly.

Possibly as early as Tuesday.

The Grizzlies’ stunning four-game elimination from the Western Conference finals means Hollins’ uncertain future is finally going to be resolved, with the Nets and Clippers -- especially Brooklyn -- known to have serious interest in the 59-year-old coach. A big-money offer from Nets billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, according to industry sources, is seen in Memphis as the worst-case scenario that would prevent the Grizzlies from keeping their occasionally cantankerous coach.

ESPN.com reported as far back as early April that Grizzlies management does indeed want to retain Hollins, even after Hollins’ initially angry reaction to the late January trade of Rudy Gay to Toronto. Yet it remains to be seen how much Memphis is willing to spend to keep him.

Doubts about Hollins’ willingness to work for new Grizzlies owner Robert Pera and CEO Jason Levien have likewise been in circulation since the coach’s multiple critiques of the Gay deal in the immediate aftermath of the trade. Sources told ESPN.com that Hollins’ relationship with star forward Zach Randolph has been strained at times throughout the season as well.

The Grizzlies have Hollins under contract through June 30 and, according to sources, will now try to strike a deal with him that keeps him off the open market. But sources add that assistant coach Dave Joerger would receive strong consideration to take over if Hollins departs after four full seasons in charge and by far the best single season in franchise history.

The future of Randolph in Memphis is another question mark after the Grizzlies’ struggles, and Randolph’s in particular, in their four straight defeats to San Antonio. Randolph drew interest from other teams before the Feb. 21 trade deadline, and, with more than $34 million left on his contract over the next two seasons, could well find himself in play to help Memphis build a more balanced team by addressing its ongoing lack of floor-spacers on the perimeter and rotation depth.

All-Star center Marc Gasol and point guard Mike Conley -- who, according to USA Basketball sources, has been invited to Team USA’s minicamp in July in Las Vegas -- have been widely considered by rival executives as Memphis’ only two roster untouchables ever since Pera took them to dinner in January without Randolph, Gay or Hollins in attendance.

“I think it’s too early now to talk about [any of] that,” Gasol said Monday night at his postgame news conference.

Said Conley earlier in the playoffs in an interview with ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne: “I'm involved a lot, obviously, with the direction of the team, personnel, our coaching staff. Whenever I get a chance to talk to people in management, I try to stress that we've built this from the ground up and we've got a good thing going. [So] if there's a way we can keep it together, try your best to do that.

“Obviously with Lionel and what he's done, all the rumors with Zach. ... Zach is a part of this city, [free agent-to-be] Tony [Allen] is a part of this city, it just wouldn't be the same if they weren't here.”

“I've seen both ways,” Conley continued. “We were terrible, and the support was pretty bad. And now it's at an all-time high. I don't want to go back to what it was before. I think it would be huge if we can stabilize what we have and just keep moving forward.”

Expounding on his hope that Hollins is retained, Conley said: "I know that he's fought for me in every situation that he's had to. I can't even put enough words in the sentences to say how much it means to me.

"Now I'm trying to go to bat for him, try and keep him here.”

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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