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Grizzlies give Lionel Hollins permission to speak with other teams

Jun 2, 2013, 5:00 PM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Three Getty Images

It’s odd when a franchise has its best season in history, and then doesn’t seem to be interested in retaining its head coach.

But that’s exactly what’s going on in Memphis with the Grizzlies and Lionel Hollins, where it appears to be increasingly likely that the team will let Hollins walk and have a replacement in place before next season. Assistant coach Dave Joerger would be the frontrunner to fill the position.

There are reasons for the discord between the two sides, which we’ll revisit in a moment. First, the news.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Wojnarowski goes on to report that talks have been ongoing between the sides on a new contract, but they stalled on Saturday.

Hollins did an exceptional job in guiding the Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals, but was critical of the team’s management after they made the midseason deal to send Rudy Gay to the Raptors. Hollins was hired by the previous owner and general manager in Memphis, and despite the success the club achieved this season, the new regime wants to bring in someone more in line with their line of thinking in terms of how to best build a franchise for long-term success.

This is the core issue.

The new personnel at the top of the organization bases its decisions heavily on the new wave of statistics and analytics. This should be viewed as a positive by most, because why wouldn’t you want to use all of the available data to make the most informed decisions possible, both in terms of building a team’s roster, as well as how those players are used by a head coach in game situations.

Hollins, for better or for worse, does not appear to be completely on board with the new management style. His contract is up at the end of June, but will begin the process of meeting with other teams immediately now that he’s received permission from Memphis.

The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers are believed to be the teams who will most actively pursue Hollins as a potential head coaching candidate.

  1. melkipershero - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    I was on board with the Rudy Gay trade. I thought it was a good move. My patience is growing thin now. Seriously Hollins is/was perfect for the Grizzlies style. Letting him go will piss of a large majority of the fanbase, including me.

  2. nbascreed - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    “…because why wouldn’t you want to use all of the available data to make the most informed decisions possible…”

    Do you have any basis in big data strategically or operationally? Or are you just parroting the popular meme in NBA circles right now? Could you give some examples perhaps of how the Grizz intend to use big data or how it worked this year in getting them to the WCF…please be specific.

    • casualcommenter - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:27 PM

      “Could you give some examples perhaps of how the Grizz intend to use big data or how it worked this year in getting them to the WCF”

      …..Um, heard of the Rudy Gay trade?

      The Rudy Gay trade was PANNED by traditional pundits like Magic Johnson since Gay, in their mind, was a “shot-maker” who could “be trusted to create for himself and others in crunch time.” Even though his stats were poor, he was “the team’s leading scorer” and “their leader” and “was the guy the team turned to when they needed a basket.”

      Meanwhile, fans of advanced statistics said that due to Gay’s terrible jump shooting the past 2 seasons, he was closer to a “shot-chucker” than a “shot-maker.” Thus, rather than boosting the Grizzlies’ offense by “taking tough shots,” Gay was in fact hampering it by “taking statistically inefficient shots” like midrange jumpers late in the shot clock.

      Sure enough – The Grizzlies IMPROVED after trading Gay away, despite Tayshaun Prince (at this stage of his career) being less talented than Gay. Why? That’s because while Prince wasn’t as talented as Gay, Prince also was happy to play a smaller role in the offense. That meant more touches for Gasol, Z-Bo, and Conley, all of whom were better offensively than Gay and thus were able to make the offense as a whole more efficient by taking more shots and handling the ball more.

      • Kurt Helin - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:01 PM

        Exactly, the Grizzlies don’t make it to the Western Conference Finals with Gay on the roster. That simple.

      • observingii - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:38 PM

        I guess advanced statistics hadn’t planned on ancients rising from the grave and winning in four.

      • jaerba - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:50 PM

        To be fair, Magic Johnson is a miserable, incompetent pundit/analyst.

        I’m a fan of advanced metrics (true advanced metrics, not the make believe stuff), but you didn’t need to be into advanced metrics to see Gay’s problems. Plenty of traditional analysts thought it was a good move as well.

      • 00maltliquor - Jun 2, 2013 at 10:20 PM

        @ Kurt

        More like Grizzlies don’t get swept by the Spurs in the conference finals with Gay ON the roster. That simple.

        That was a nice little write-up by causualcommenter, but I’m not buying it.

      • Kurt Helin - Jun 13, 2013 at 1:09 AM

        The Grizzlies were better without Gay — their offense scored at a higher clip per possession, they won more games, with that they advanced farther in the playoffs than they ever have before. If you watched a lot of Grizzlies ball it was clear they were better without him.

      • nbascreed - Jun 2, 2013 at 10:48 PM

        1. My bad ‘casualcommenter’ and Kurt, I thought we were talking about predictive modeling NOT shot charts, field goal percentages and salary caps…I guess we just have different idea about what advanced stats means. I thought it was advanced modeling concepts, data aggregation, meta data and algorithmic decision making NOT criteria that were widely used as early as the 60’s.

        2. Also Kurt, would you please look up the term counterfactual logic vis-a-vis your Grizz comment and let me know what you find? Seriously. No one who was serious about modeling would ever make such a ridiculous claim.

        Btw, empirically what was clear to me was that regardless of his status as a “shot chucker” the Grizz desperately needed a guy who was adept at getting shots against a stingy defense. I guess those models they used need to refactor the number of cheeseburgers Zbo and Gasol inhale before every game upward.

      • Kurt Helin - Jun 13, 2013 at 1:03 AM

        Advanced stats involve a lot of different areas, from simple things like breaking stats down by possession and not games to more advanced +/- systems to some of the meta data coming in from STATS cameras and how to grasp and use that information.

      • money2long - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:48 AM

        gay was actually on ESPN First Take this past week and was asked if he felt it was right that he was traded by memphis. he agreed with the trade. gay went on to say (when asked on the subject) that he and zach weren’t a good fit, citing his and z-bo’s tendencies to post up.

      • money2long - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:51 AM

        but let me make it clear that he sounded like he had no hard feelings, wished memphis well, and liked the players on the grizzlies. point is, he didn’t seem too bitter. he just was looking at the bigger picture. he gave professional answers.

    • slowclyde86 - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:45 PM

      Odd comment. Why don’t you answer Brett’s question? I mean, seriously, why would anyone in their right mind not use available data to make informed decisions?

  3. observingii - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:47 PM

    As far as is currently known, there is no concrete evidence that “advanced statistics” has ever recorded a single victory in the NBA. Perhaps it’s like the rumors of ghosts — do they really exist, or is it just some mental phenomenon that occurs mainly in the minds of mathematicians?

    • nbascreed - Jun 2, 2013 at 6:47 PM

      1. It’s the latter…for sure! What Brett, Kurt et al have failed to understand is that the game of baseball is static. One guy throws and another guy swings. This is the impetus for EVERY SINGLE OTHER ACTION that takes place on a diamond. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Therefore it is much more plausible that prop modeling (if you have the right brains) can yield substantial gains. That is until other brains start to do it for other teams. At which point it becomes a commodity like watching film or having a hitting coach. Since Brett and Kurt don’t understand predictive modeling they simply parrot what other GMs (who purport to use it to some effect) tell them.

      2. The fact that Robert Pera came from Apple or the ESPN guy came up with an incredibly defective new basketball stat or that the nerds at MIT host a big data in sports conference doesn’t mean predictive modeling in basketball works. It just means there are really smart people trying their best to do new things with numbers (very laudable) and a bunch of uninitiated people co-signing things they know nothing about (not so much).

      3. Where Big data has PROVEN incredibly USEFUL is in businesses that are event or transactional in nature (i.e. we want you to do this one thing). Think a purchase at a retail store OR a defined outcome (or set of outcomes) that ACME Corp wants its consumer to take OR a player trying to hit a ball (hint).

      4. In the year 2234 when robots run the world and our algos are incredibly complex and our computing power is advanced beyond what anyone in 2013 can imagine maybe, just maybe, predictive modeling will have value in basketball. Until that time I really wish those with no basis in big data or modeling would stop pretending like they’re really onto something and just admit we’re trying to work through algorithm and data collection that makes sense.

      • jaerba - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:56 PM

        There’s major flaws in each of the main models, but that doesn’t mean you abandon trying to do it.

        I agree that it’s most useful in one-on-one encounters (which is why it works well in baseball), but there are useful metrics that don’t attempt to simply distill a player’s value into a single number.

        Even stuff like knowing what % a player goes right or left or how often they shoot/pass in X scenario are part of the advanced metrics teams are using.

    • casualcommenter - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:16 PM

      “As far as is currently known, there is no concrete evidence that “advanced statistics” has ever recorded a single victory in the NBA. Perhaps it’s like the rumors of ghosts — do they really exist, or is it just some mental phenomenon that occurs mainly in the minds of mathematicians?”

      ……Well, we do know a dozen NBA teams have invested in SportVu technology, which consist of advanced cameras that allow teams to collect data on individual player positions, dribbles, passing, etc. tendencies.

      http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9068903/the-toronto-raptors-sportvu-cameras-nba-analytical-revolution

      And it’s highly unlikely those teams have spent money on it yet aren’t losing the data.
      And the list of teams that use the technology include several playoff teams, including San Antonio, Oklahoma City, New York, Boston, Milwaukee, Golden State, and Houston.

      Also, the Memphis Grizzlies (yet another playoff team) hired John Hollinger, who is considered one of the most prominent proponents of advanced stats, to help run their front office…so I’m guessing they’re interested in advanced stats.

      So the fact that you aren’t capable of understanding it doesn’t mean it isn’t actively used by some of the best teams in the NBA…because it is.

      • Kurt Helin - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:54 PM

        All four of the final four teams in the NBA use advanced stats fairly extensively.

      • nbascreed - Jun 2, 2013 at 10:59 PM

        Kurt, I’m in the sharing mood. In addition to your counterfactual homework outlined above, please research confirmation bias. You’ve displayed it with your last comment. How do I know? Because the Wolves, Suns, Bobacts come Hornets and Magic all use it extensively TOO. Confirmation Bias my friend…the tool of the weak!

    • eventhorizon04 - Jun 2, 2013 at 7:18 PM

      Actually, it’s been reported by Grantland, ProBasketball Talk, and other outlets that several teams have begun incorporating advanced statistics, such as SportVu camera technology, into their decision making, including prominent teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies, and New York Knicks.

      So unlike ghosts, the evidence is clear to those who have bothered to read up on it.

      • observingii - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:24 PM

        Those final four teams may be using it — but where is the evidence it has helped or hindered production? The winners may be using it, but apparently a bunch of the losing teams do also.

      • nbascreed - Jun 2, 2013 at 10:56 PM

        What!?!?!? Reader-FAIL, big time.

        Did you even read the nuance of this thread? Never mind…that’s rhetorical. Listen guy, just b/c someone is doing something that doesn’t make that something valid, accurate or worthwhile.

        The contention is NOT if teams are using it, the contention is, does big data and predictive modeling work. The answer right now is unequivocally NO.

  4. sportsnut101 - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:55 PM

    Take care hollins Wth ur new team The bk. nets He doesn’t wanna work for clippers n sterling

    • melkipershero - Jun 2, 2013 at 11:22 PM

      Translation…..?

  5. reasonablemindsays - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    if you dont have film or scouting reports, stats are the only way to judge a player

    when youre an nba organization that tries to evaluate the thousands of talented players across the country, statistics are very useful

  6. 00maltliquor - Jun 2, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    It’s obvious the new ownership group are a bunch of tightwads and sadly, there will be some dark days ahead for the Memphis Grizzlies once again. I wish they wouldn’t sell teams to potential owners who try to build a contender on pennies on the dollar.

  7. qdog112 - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:05 AM

    Go someplace that will appreciate you. It’s pretty clear that Memphis is not that place.

  8. cosmicpeon - Jun 3, 2013 at 12:27 AM

    wonder what that old analytical data would have said about the spurz trio of duncan,parker,&ginobli?

    • Kurt Helin - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:55 AM

      The Spurs are heavy users of analytics, they were in it early compared to most teams.

  9. pistolpete0903 - Jun 3, 2013 at 2:20 AM

    Both the sides are right in their own way.

  10. spideysdog - Jun 3, 2013 at 5:56 AM

    lmao at people here. so many people blasting the advanced statistics. everything in life changes. those that are on board with technological advances are usually standing tall at the end, and those that ignore or embrace the “old school” methods are usually left in the dust.

    I’m not saying Lionel Hopkins is a bad coach. far from it. I am, on the other hand, suggesting it’s a bad idea to NOT embrace advancement and change.

    I was born and raised in Seattle and transplanted to Rochester NY two years ago. Rochester ilwas the home of George Eastman and what was once one a dominant force in the Kodak Corporation. Kodak actually developed the first digital camera ever, but it’s board of directors decided not to patent the technology or advance it because they considered it too “costly and advanced” for the general public.

    There are now dozens of extremely large production buildings and factories here sitting empty and being torn down as the bankruptcy ends Kodak.

    over 60k people lost their retirements and benefits.

    my point, is technology almost always win out. to ignore or be little advancements is foolish are they perfect, probably not. are they better than some 50 year old dude sitting in the sixth row and logging tendencies…. probably.

  11. spursareold - Jun 3, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    People really don’t understand the advanced stats, perhaps because they aren’t that complicated. When you reduce basketball to it’s essence, it’s about putting the ball through the hoop and stopping your opponent from doing the same. That’s all that some of the more basic advanced stats measure, either points per possession or points allowed per possession. Anyone who followed advanced stats SAW that the Spurs much more efficient offense would put Memphis under dire pressure to score, since their defenses were basically a wash, with Memphis being #2 in defensive efficiency, and SA being #3. Memphis’ offense was ranked #17. This series had loss written all over it for the Grizz, although the sweep was a surprise.

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