Answering Memphis’ Hot Sports Topics

By Don Wade

In a week with too many worthy column topics and too many valid questions deserving answers, let’s spend a few moments with each one.

First up, “The Lionel Hollins Situation.” The very name tells you what a mess it has become. There are many questions here, but let’s focus on these three:

Question: At what point did it become possible the new ownership group headed by Robert Pera and CEO Jason Levien might not bring back Hollins as coach?

Answer: From Day 1. Look, regardless of how the season finished – and no one really anticipated a trip to the Western Conference Finals – this was about people with wildly different NBA/world views. That over time Hollins has continued to make public comments that could be considered as insulting, or at least disrespectful, to his bosses makes a change understandable, if not ideal, in the wake of the most successful season in team history.

Question: Nothing in the NBA makes sense anymore. The Grizzlies may let Hollins go and the Denver Nuggets aren’t bringing back George Karl, who just won Coach of the Year. What happens from here?

Answer: Would you believe what in effect would look like a “trade,” with the Grizzlies hiring Karl and the Nuggets going after Hollins? None of this is certain, of course, but ESPN reported Thursday morning that this scenario was indeed possible with both franchises having interest. Previously, it was assumed assistant Dave Joerger would be promoted if Hollins did not return. But it’s worth noting that Stu Lash, the Grizzlies’ director of player personnel, worked with Karl in Denver. Stranger things have happened than a Hollins-Karl switch.

Question: If you’re Levien, do you bring Hollins back?

Answer: No, not now. Hollins did a good job but this has gone too far. Hollins is prideful and stubborn – that’s the best of Lionel and the worst of Lionel. For the sake of the franchise’s future, change is the better course. If Karl’s the new guy, the criticism of him would be only getting past the first round of playoffs once in nine trips in Denver.

The University of Memphis basketball team has received a commitment from former Missouri guard Michael Dixon, who has never been charged with a crime but has been accused by two different women of sexual assault.

Question: What does this tell us about Tigers coach Josh Pastner?

Answer: Pastner just got a nice raise and with it come increased expectations. He’s also going to a new conference and playing a tougher schedule. On the court, he sees Dixon as insurance and maybe a game-changer the way Geron Johnson was a year ago. Johnson, recall, had several run-ins with the law and was considered a risk but got through the season without a hiccup. The allegations against Dixon are far more serious and suggest a disturbing pattern. Pastner never utters a curse word but, frankly, I’d much rather he cuss a blue streak and not lower himself to taking a player with this kind of baggage. I understand Dixon wasn’t charged, but two separate accusations? If he’s really that unlucky, he should start carrying a rabbit’s foot.

Baseball has another big steroids story.

Question: When will it end?

Answer: Never. Remember, baseball was complicit in performance-enhancing drugs taking root in the game. After Bug Selig canceled a World Series, baseball was only too happy to use whatever means necessary to bring fans back through the turnstiles. In short, the powers that be made their deal with the devil during the Great Home Run Chase of 1998. Fifteen years later, they’re still paying for it. They want the public to now see them as “cleaning up the game,” but baseball has been so ineffective in this regard that the players – from stars to minor-leaguers – will continue to gamble that they won’t get caught in order to gain an edge and bigger paydays.

Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.