New York Daily News
Hollins: Show Conley the money
The narrative surrounding Mike Conley Jr.’s upcoming free agency is always prefaced with a caution of loyalty: “He can never leave Memphis. He grew up around there,” the logic goes. “He was instrumental in Marc Gasol re-signing and he can’t ditch his friend.”
However, the coach who groomed him into an NBA star, Lionel Hollins, believes the Knicks target will chase the money and financial security.
“I don’t know if Michael looks elsewhere but that might end up being the best move. Mike is at that crossroads where he’s (28) years old. He’s coming up on a contract year. He wants to get paid,” Hollins, who was fired as the Brooklyn Nets coach this season, said on SiriusXM radio. “Will Memphis pay him as much as somebody else? If he can get to a situation that has a future of winning or is he going to go to a team that doesn’t have a future of winning? That’s probably going to be important to him as well.”
Hollins coached Conley for five seasons in Memphis, becoming, according to the point guard, “almost a second father figure to me.” Hollins’ presence in Brooklyn was considered the reason Conley would give the Nets a chance this summer, when both New York teams can have enough cap space to sign a max free agent.
Conley is earning about $9.7 million this year and should double his salary with the next contract. The Grizzlies own his Bird Rights and can offer him the most money, but, as Hollins noted, they’re a small market team already doling out big money to Gasol and Zach Randolph. Plus, it appears Memphis’ run with that three-man nucleus has passed its peak.
They’ve failed to get out of the second round since reaching the conference finals in 2013. This season, they’re fifth in the conference and Gasol is out indefinitely with a broken foot. Conley has stated “everything is on the table” regarding his free agency.
“It comes down to, this is your life. This is your opportunity. You have the hammer in your hand and you have to wield it because you may never get it again,” Hollins said. “The reality is you have to do what’s best for your family and the future. And if somebody comes around and offers Michael $18 million and Memphis can’t match, I think you have to make those decisions from that perspective.”
While speaking in generalities and never specifically mentioning the Nets, Hollins hinted at some of the issues that doomed his tenure in Brooklyn, beyond just the losing. It was known that ownership and management were not happy with the way Hollins criticized his players in the media. The Nets also have one of the more aggressive marketing teams spearheaded by Brett Yormark.
“The main thing when you’re looking for a job is finding somebody that allows you to be you and lets you coach as you coach. If you’re successful, great. If you’re not, get rid of him. But the micromanaging, the meddling of who should play and how you should talk to this guy and how you should talk to the media, what you should say or shouldn’t say because how it looks for the organization versus just speaking the truth. Those things weigh on you when you spend so much time trying to massage everybody instead of just coaching,” Hollins said.