During the NBA offseason, the Brooklyn Nets were blindsided by Jason Kidd’s brazen ploy for more power within the organization; a move that resulted in him accepting a head coaching position with the Milwaukee Bucks. One year after the Nets made a huge media splash by hiring the neophyte, Kidd’s sudden departure returned the Nets to where they were a year ago, without a coach.
If you’re counting, Kidd’s exit made four times in three years that the Nets were forced to embark on a head coaching search. And as noted by Brook Lopez, he’s welcoming his seventh coach since his 2008 rookie season with the New Jersey Nets.
Enter Lionel Hollins.
After five seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies and one year without a gig, Hollins, 50, is returning to the sidelines. As the team searches for stability, the Nets franchise hopes Hollins is finally “the right voice,” as Deron Williams stated. That certain voice that can realize the organization’s goal of becoming a top contender within the league.
But let’s be frank (#NoLawrence), Hollins having a voice at all is a step in the right direction. Hollins’ predecessor was often criticized for being light on details when it came to describing his vision for the team. Hollins, on the other hand, was very vocal when discussing his coaching philosophy and what he expects from his players with Nets media at Friday’s press conference.
If you expect the Nets to be a carbon copy of the Memphis Grizzlies, think again. Hollins adapts his coaching style to suit the assets available to him. When discussing his system and the open spot in the team’s starting rotation, Hollins shared, “In general, I’m looking for a system that involves a lot of people at every possession so that whoever has the ball that’s open can shoot the ball. We’ve got a lot of good shooters, a lot of good decision-makers, a lot of high-IQ guys, and I want to utilize that and take advantage of all the personnel that’s on the floor. Now I’m not gonna say we’re not gonna iso, I’m not gonna say we’re not gonna post up, but that’s not going to be our focal point.”
However, the tough, defensive mindset that legitimized the Grizzlies among a stacked Western Conference will be a part of the Nets DNA. Hollins said, “I’d like us to be tougher, more aggressive, compete harder every moment that they’re on the court, persevering through everything.” He also added, I want them to be tougher mentally. There’s a lot that goes into being a good team, and that’s the type of foundation that we’re gonna lay.”
When asked about the areas in which he’d like to make immediate changes or fixes, Hollins replied, everything. “I want to fix everything so that we can win a championship.”
That in no way suggests the entire Nets system is broken. To be fair, through the injuries and revolving coach’s door, the Nets have made back-to-back playoff appearances, an assertion their rivals, New York Knicks, across the river can’t make. Overcoming the challenges the Nets faced the past couple of seasons is a testament to the team’s core overachieving. Although the Nets lost Paul Pierce to the Washington Wizards this summer, Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, and Deron Williams, have all returned healthy and motivated. And of course, the championship or bust mindset instated by Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov remains intact. As 20-year veteran Garnett stated, “No one is suiting up to come in second.”
If the Nets are committed to advancing beyond the second round of the playoffs, they’ll have to embrace Hollins’ penchant for practice, a strong departure from Kidd’s more casual approach. As Johnson put it, “With Jason Kidd, he – I mean, we – practiced, but not really.” When Hollins was baited, he didn’t take shots at Kidd’s emphasis on rest, though. Hollins responded, “I hear no evil, I see no evil, I speak no evil. I don’t even know about that. All I know about is how we’re going to do.”
When asked to share their thoughts on Kidd’s bizarre exit, Johnson and Lopez kept their responses brief, describing it as “strange” and “quick.” Instead of dwelling on the past, the players rather discuss the franchise’s future, even if that includes lots and lots of practice.
photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports