Rivers to Grizzlies, Hollins to Celtics: A perfect switch-a-roo
Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, facing a depreciated, aging roster at the very end of its star-studded title chase, wants to remain on that same road, but believes (and possibly knows) that he can’t do it in Beantown. His most trusty veteran, Kevin Garnett, is entering his 19th season and seems to only want to play for Rivers to end his Hall of Fame career. His most clutch performer, Paul Pierce, fully expects to not be in the green and white for next year, but desperately has a dedication to finish a heralded career with the lone team he’s played for. A young, unproven roster headed by crafty, yet gimpy Rajon Rondo (coming off ACL surgery) makes for some promise, but Rivers is aiming for a guaranteed shot at a championship.
Meanwhile, former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins is simply aiming at coaching another team. Coming off the franchise’s best season in history (record 56 wins), most of the basketball fan world expected Hollins’ contract to be immediately extended. But that wasn’t the case, as a dispute between Grizzlies management (maybe fretting over the series sweep loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals) and Hollins (overly bothered from the team’s cap-saving trade of leading scorer Rudy Gay in the middle of the season) led to a parting of ways. Hollins was shown the door from a team that has far more promise, far more ability to contend for a championship than most others. Mike Conley vastly improved under Hollins’ watch, while the twin towering frontcourt tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph help shore up an overall young and defensively-strong squad.
In effect, I could play the Duke Brothers from the 1980s film “Trading Places” and perform an experiment of my own. Why not have the two coaches switch sides and test their mettle in brand new environments, one being less basketball traditional and the other engulfed in “Title-town” nostalgia?
Rivers will find himself anchoring a Grizzlies team that’s primed to contend in the West right away. The onus is defense in Memphis (allowed league-low 88.3 points per game last season), easily down Rivers’ street (Celtics teams ranked in top-five in points allowed per game from 2008-12). Rivers already coached a raw Rondo into All-Star form within six seasons and could make the same for an already-polished Conley (career-high 14.6 points per game this past season).