But that won’t be the first time the new coach of the Brooklyn Nets faces his former team.
The Nets take on the Grizzlies on Jan. 14 at Barclays Center.
“Like I told [Marc] Gasol and like he told me, he said, ‘It’s gonna be weird beating you. And I replied, ‘It’s gonna be weird beating you, too,’” Hollins said Friday.
Gasol turned into one of the best two-way centers in the NBA playing under Hollins.
In Hollins’ four full seasons in Memphis (2009-13), Gasol averaged 13.7 points and 8.2 rebounds on 51.8 percent shooting.
“Obviously it’s gonna mean more [playing the Grizzlies] because of the players involved,” Hollins said.
Kevin Love is gone now, and yet somehow the Timberwolves have parlayed that into a record-setting week at the box office.
After completing the long-rumored trade that sent Love to the Cavaliers and brought Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young to Minnesota, the Timberwolves have sold more than 300 full season-ticket packages in the last week.
That beats the previous record in 2011 that was set when Ricky Rubio announced that he was coming over from Spain to play for the team.
• On how he assembled his coaching staff: “I wanted guys that had good teaching ability, that could work together, that could work with me, and that’s basically what went into it. Who’s gonna fit best with what we’re trying to do as a team and what I want to do. I’m very fortunate to get the guys I’ve gotten. They were available and willing to come.”
• On Kevin Garnett, who Hollins still has not spoken to yet: “He’s such a heckuva competitor. He’s very focused and intense, and you like that about a player that brings it every night, and you know what you’re going to get from that player. That’s huge. Just his level of competitiveness and his willingness to do whatever it takes to win.”
• On Mason Plumlee getting the opportunity to participate in the World Cup with Team USA: “I think Mason’s had a wonderful camp, and I’m excited for him and I’m happy for him that he’s made Team USA, and it’s a good experience for him and hopefully he’ll be able to catapult that into an opportunity this season.”
• On Bojan Bogdanovic: “I think he’s got great size, he’s also got great speed and quickness. He can shoot the ball, but also put the ball on the floor. He can post up. I’m looking for players. Players that have multiple skills and are not just one-dimensional.”
• On his excitement coaching the Nets: “I’m excited to coach this team because of their potential and possibilities. As I tell people all the time, everybody has potential and there’s a lot of possibilities in our lives, you gotta make them realities.”
• On Paul Pierce’s departure via free agency: “Players retire, players get traded, players leave in free agency. You take what you have and you work with them.”
• On how he balances proven players with young players when picking his starting lineup: “It’ll be a little bit of both. There’s guys that have earned it in this league and somebody has to unseat them to take their job. But there’s also guys that are doing good things and have to be on the court. But my starting lineup is not my most pressing concern. It’s just trying to get our group playing the way we want them to play. Who starts will develop from practice, preseason and then the coaching staff’s decision on how we best fit.”
In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Williams went 0-for-9 from the field and was held scoreless. Kobe Bryant wondered to Sports Illustrated how something like that could happen to a player of D-Will’s caliber. Bryant felt that Williams got psyched out. Instead of continuing to shoot, the three-time All-Star became passive.
Bryant couldn’t understand. The Los Angeles Lakers star said he’d rather go 0-for-30 than 0-for-9.
Williams underwent surgery on both of his ankles in the offseason. Now it’s about getting healthy and getting his confidence back. But how?
“There’s a lot of different things you can do [as a coach],” Lionel Hollins said Friday. “I can’t say right here that I’m going to walk in there and tell Deron Williams this or that, because I don’t even know where he is from that perspective [a confidence perspective] at this moment.
“But I think first of all he has to be healthy and he has to be in great shape and we’re going to try to put him in a situation where he can flourish, which will give him confidence and go from there. I mean confidence comes and goes with all players no matter how good they are. I don’t think there’s ever been a player that’s played and didn’t have a confidence issue at some point maybe in a game, maybe in a season.”
Hollins has said similar things before. Putting Williams in a position where he can flourish is the key. In that respect, it really comes down to health, doesn’t it?
“If you’re injured, you can’t be who you are,” Hollins said. “You can’t make the same moves or be as explosive as you are, and it’s difficult to go out there and go 100 percent. You’re always worried about what’s going to happen if you push off, stop, change direction, all of those things.”
Asked about where Williams is from health standpoint, Hollins responded, “As far as I know, good.”
Williams looked good dribbling in an Instagram video posted by his close friend, Matt Mitnick, on Friday night.
Hollins went on an Arizona radio station recently and talked about contracts possibly affecting a player’s performance. He was speaking in generalities, but there was some thought he might’ve been speaking about Williams, who had signed a five-year, $98 million max contract to remain in Brooklyn back in the summer of 2012, specifically.
“You’d have to ask Deron that question,” Hollins said. “What happened, in my opinion, had to do with injuries.”
“Like I said before, I’m not looking for any restrictions,” Lopez told two reporters Friday. “I’m confident I’m gonna be able to go out there and be better than I’ve ever been. So from that standpoint, I think our timetables will be different.”
Ilgauskas had his procedure in February 2001. He returned to game action in December of that year, averaging just 21.4 minutes while starting in 23 of the 62 games in which he appeared.
But the following season, Ilgauskas returned to form, missing just one game and averaging a career-high 17.2 points in 30 minutes.
“I talked to Z really quickly in passing after [having my] surgery while I was hurt,” Lopez said. “It was real quick, basic stuff, a lot of words of encouragement.”
Lopez said he continues to improve every day, increasingly getting in shape and regaining his wind.
“We’re doing everything possible to make the transition as easy as possible, so we’re not immediately just pounding, pounding, pounding right away,” Lopez said. “And I’m in good hands. We still have a lot of time left, and I’m confident when it comes to the outlook of the season. I’m very excited.”
• Lopez was speaking at the first-ever Brooklyn Nets Hamptons Basketball Camp; 160 campers were in attendance to shoot some hoops with Lopez and coach Lionel Hollins.
Lopez arrived in the Hamptons in style -- on a helicopter. The trip, which began at Chelsea Piers, took exactly 45 minutes.
“They told me we’d land at 9:20, and we landed at 9:20,” Lopez said. “Our pilot was on point.”
• Lopez recently attended the Emmys with his twin brother, Portland Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez.
“It was fun. I got it set up through a connection with my agent,” he said.
Brook and Robin had tickets in the middle of the fourth row.
“I thought they were going to be way in the back,” Lopez said with a laugh.
The highlight for Lopez?
“I was sitting behind Richard Karn [who played Al Borland on "Home Improvement"] all night, so I was geeking out about that,” Lopez said. “That was probably my favorite part.”
Today’s question: Will Deron Williams return to All-Star form?
Much of it depends on if Williams can make a full recovery physically and mentally after undergoing surgery on both of his ankles in May.
The physical part appears to be on track as Williams is said to be making progress. But it is in his and the Nets’ best interest for the point guard to take a cautious approach in camp.
Williams averaged 18.9 points and 7.7 assists in 2012-13 but saw those numbers dip to 14.3 points and 6.1 assists last season. He played in 64 games, missing time due to his sore ankles.
And he might’ve rushed back too soon after missing five games in the middle of January. Williams just rarely looked comfortable last season, playing well in spurts. He averaged 16.9 points and 5.6 assists in the first round against Toronto but saw those numbers dip in the second round against Miami to 11.2 points and 6.2 assists per game. During a Game 2 loss to the Heat, Williams went 0-for-9 from the field in 37 minutes and finished with no points, seven rebounds and six assists.
While Williams might not have been healthy, his confidence was also clearly far from being in peak form as well. Sports Illustrated recently did an in-depth interview with Kobe Bryant and also released a series of excerpts from the time with Bryant. During one excerpt on Bryant’s views on confidence, Williams’ 0-for-9 night came up.
SI wrote: Gotham Chopra, the director of “Kobe Bryant’s Muse,” an upcoming documentary on Bryant, told a story about being with Kobe and watching the Nets and the Heat play. Recounts Chopra, “Deron Williams went like 0-for-9. I was like, ‘Can you believe Deron Williams went 0-9?’ Kobe was like, ‘I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9. 0-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game, because Deron Williams can get more shots in the game. The only reason is because you've just now lost confidence in yourself."
And there is likely the answer to whether Williams can regain his All-Star form. First, he must recover physically. And then, perhaps even more important, Williams has to gain confidence again in his ankles and then build his confidence back up in his game.
Last season, he had to get used to having Jason Kidd as his coach, and he often deferred to Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson. Add on the fact that he wasn't feeling at his best physically, and you have a down year. He has to get back to feeling like he is "The Man" on the team again. That’s going to take time.
I believe he can average 18-to-20 points and double-figure assists again. Reaching those averages this season will be difficult, given his offseason surgery and having to learn a new coach and system again. The Nets also still have Johnson, and Brook Lopez is also making his own return from surgery. With no Shaun Livingston, Williams should have the ball in his hands more. And with Pierce in Washington, Williams has to take this team and make it his team.
Williams, 30, has three years remaining on his contract. He has plenty of time to regain his All-Star form, and I think he can. I just wonder if it will happen in Brooklyn or if he might need a fresh start somewhere else to get back to the old D-Will.
Question: Will we see Williams regain his All-Star form with the Nets again?
Today’s question: Will Mason Plumlee take the next step?
In some ways, Plumlee is in the process of taking that next step already. Making the final Team USA roster has been the type of experience for Plumlee that is simply priceless for the Nets.
Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Kenneth Faried and Andre Drummond, while playing alongside and learning from stars like James Harden, Derrick Rose and Stephen Curry. And he’s being coached by Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Thibodeau and Jim Boeheim.
Sure, his experience playing for Coach K at Duke helped his cause. But give Plumlee some credit. The bottom line is he made a very talented roster. All Plumlee can do is get better from this. Without a doubt, his confidence is going to rise.
After averaging 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds, largely contributing with his energy and athleticism off the bench, as a rookie, Plumlee returns for his second season with the Nets knowing he can compete against some of the best young big men in the game.
Even if he doesn’t play much in the FIBA World Cup, Plumlee has spent his entire summer playing, working on his game and learning from the best.
Plumlee has worked on his midrange jumper, a facet of his game that he must add to complement his rebounding and athletic, above-the-rim game inside. Plumlee also has to work on his back-to-the-basket game, as well.
The one downside of Plumlee being with the Nets is that he won’t play heavy starter-type minutes with Brook Lopez returning and Kevin Garnett expected to return.
Plumlee isn’t expected to start unless Lopez and Garnett get hurt. It's always possible he could see some starts if Lopez and Garnett are rested, especially on back-to-backs. He's capable of playing both center and power forward. Also, Andray Blatche isn't around to take up minutes.
Lionel Hollins should find Plumlee enough time to contribute and develop. And after this summer’s valuable Team USA experience, Plumlee will return and be surrounded by veterans like Lopez, Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko for a second season.
The 22nd overall pick from last year became a surprise contributor. This season, Plumlee will have an even more defined role, should see more minutes and should have chances to prove himself as a starter when Lopez and Garnett get rested. That all leads to a step in the right direction for Plumlee, whose career is on the rise.
Question: Do you believe Plumlee will take the next step this season?
Vegas sports book Bovada has the Knicks at 50-1 to win the championship. The Nets are at 66-1.
The betting lines were adjusted after Kevin Love was officially traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers are the title favorites at 5-2, followed by the San Antonio Spurs at 4-1 and the Chicago Bulls at 11-2. The Oklahoma City Thunder at 6-1 and the Los Angeles Clippers at 12-1 round out the starting five.
As for the Eastern Conference title, the odds are as follows: Cavaliers 4-5, Bulls 9-4, Washington Wizards 14-1, Miami Heat 16-1, Indiana Pacers 20-1, Charlotte Hornets 25-1, New York Knicks 25-1, Toronto Raptors 25-1, Nets 28-1.
Remember: LeBron James has gone to four straight NBA finals. So perhaps it might be better to take your Nets/Knicks betting money and donate it to a charity or good cause rather than Vegas.
Question: What do you think of the odds?
Now, the bad news: After finally figuring out Jason Kidd’s system and discovering their identity following an absolutely abysmal start in 2013-14, the Nets have another new coach, Lionel Hollins, which means they must learn another new system and discover their identity yet again.
It’s going to take time. It’s just a matter of how much.
Under Kidd, the Nets struggled in 2013. Garnett and Paul Pierce struggled playing the part of supporting actors after playing starring roles. Kidd was running the offense through Lopez, something the coach wasn’t entirely comfortable with. And to top it off, Williams was hurt.
It was a mess.
But then Lopez got injured, and, as bad as that was, things got better. Shaun Livingston moved into the starting lineup, and small and long proved to be the way to go. The Nets started shooting more 3-pointers and getting steals to make up for their deficiencies rebounding the basketball.
They figured out who they were and turned their season around because of it.
Now, Hollins is at the helm. In Memphis, his teams defended tenaciously and rode their imposing frontcourt to great success.
What will Brooklyn’s identity be this season? And how long will it take them to discover it?
Lopez is expected to be healthy. So is Williams. But both are coming off surgeries. What can be expected? Will Hollins run everything through Lopez in the post? Will he run pick-and-rolls with Williams? How much of a role will rookie Bojan Bogdanovic, who has to get acclimated to the speed and style of the NBA game, have? Will he experiment with smaller lineups that feature one big or Williams and Jarrett Jack in the same backcourt?
Training camp will be important for Hollins in evaluating how he’s going to use his personnel. That, of course, is going to necessitate players being healthy and able to participate in practices in order to develop chemistry and cohesion. Kidd’s coaching stint got off to a bad start because Williams was hurt and unable to get reps. A repeat of that with Williams or Lopez, or both, missing valuable practice time would make things difficult on Hollins.
Would it be a surprise if the Nets got off to a slow start again? Based on the above factors, not really. But maybe Hollins will get them up to speed, and they’ll do just the opposite.
Late Friday night, Team USA officially announced that Plumlee, who will be entering his second season as a member of the Brooklyn Nets, will be one of 12 players heading over to Spain to compete in the World Cup.
Plumlee tweeted his elation after the announcement became official:
Damian Lillard, Kyle Korver, Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons were the final cuts.
“It’s been a great experience, and whatever happens, I’m grateful for the opportunity to work out with the team,” Plumlee said after Team USA’s 112-86 exhibition victory over Puerto Rico at Madison Square Garden.
Plumlee, 24, was originally supposed to be on the Select Team that practiced against Team USA during training camp in Las Vegas, but he impressed during practices and was promoted. Plumlee then excelled in Team USA’s scrimmage, scoring 10 points in the third quarter. He also had a strong showing in Team USA’s 95-78 exhibition victory over Brazil last Saturday in Chicago, finishing with nine points, four rebounds and three steals.
Many have said Plumlee was only under consideration for Team USA because he played for coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Plumlee was initially upset about all the criticism he was receiving, but later realized his critics didn’t know how the process worked, while adding that there was no favoritism involved.
Plumlee is the least accomplished of any of the candidates despite his being named to the All-Rookie First Team following a solid rookie campaign in the NBA.
It was a surprise that Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo and Coach K decided to take both DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond as well. It was believed that at least one of those players was going to be cut in order for Plumlee to make the team, which caused an uproar on social media.
But Plumlee explained why he would be a good fit for Team USA on Friday night.
“I’m a mobile, athletic big that can get out, defend, play with energy and then just [I have] an understanding of the game, getting guys open, setting screens, rebounding,” Plumlee said. “Kinda doing the stuff big men should do. That’s what I tried to show them this time, and I hope that’s what they saw.”
Team USA opens up World Cup action on Aug. 30 against Finland.
Probably because he’s almost assuredly not going to get the axe.
The Brooklyn Nets’ second-year big man will find out on Saturday morning if he’s one of 12 players chosen to represent Team USA in the World Cup -- and all indications are that he’s going to make the squad.
“Everybody’s waiting, everybody’s a little on edge,” Plumlee said Friday night after scoring four points, grabbing five rebounds and getting two steals in Team USA’s 112-86 exhibition victory over Puerto Rico at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s been a great experience, and whatever happens, I’m grateful for the opportunity to work out with the team. Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, it’s been great.”
Plumlee capped off a dominant second half by Team USA with a one-handed breakaway dunk in the closing seconds. It wasn’t his best showing by any means -- he struggled to defend pick-and-rolls a bit -- but his overall body of work since being promoted from the Select Team during training camp has been solid.
On Thursday, ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Plumlee had emerged as a favorite of Mike Krzyzewski, his former coach at Duke, to be one of the final 12. If you read between the lines, all four players who were DNP-Coach’s Decisions on Friday night -- Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond, Gordon Hayward and DeMar DeRozan -- were all believed to be on the bubble, so there’s a distinct possibility they will be the ones staying home while the other players board a Saturday night flight for Europe. Team USA opens up the World Cup on Aug. 30 against Finland.
Nets officials were already excited Plumlee’s inclusion on the Select Team, because he would be able to practice and learn from some of the best players in the World. Now, it appears that he’s going to spend even more time with them.
Asked why he was a good fit for the squad, Plumlee said, “I’m a mobile, athletic big that can get out defend, play with energy and then just [I have] an understanding of the game, getting guys open, setting screens, rebounding. Kinda doing the stuff big men should do. That’s what I tried to show them this time, and I hope that’s what they saw.”
Said teammate James Harden: “He knows his role. He just goes in and plays hard, he rebounds and blocks shots. He talks on defense, he goes in there and gives us energy. Even if he doesn't play, he cheers for the team and those are players we need going forward.”
And to think, Plumlee was told when he first began practicing with the Select Team that none of the players were going to get brought up. But things ended up working out a little differently than expected.
“It’s been a positive experience just to work out with the older guys,” Plumlee said. “It really opened my eyes to get to play with a lot of talent and pick things up from other guys, so it’s been a lot of fun.”
Hollins’ teams were built on the defensive end of the floor. Old-school, no-nonsense coaching proved to be an integral in the development of young players like Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. The Nets are hoping Hollins can have a similar impact in Brooklyn after Jason Kidd’s stunning departure to Milwaukee.
The biggest challenge Hollins faces this season is getting Deron Williams, who underwent surgery on both of his ankles over the summer, to play like an All-Star again.
Other challenges Hollins faces include implementing new offensive and defensive systems that could take time to learn; figuring out his rotation and whether he wants to go with more traditional or smaller lineups; managing Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett to ensure that they are healthy by the time the playoffs roll around; and developing younger players like Bojan Bogdanovic, Mason Plumlee and Sergey Karasev.
These challenges aren’t going to be easy. But expect the veteran Hollins to attack them head-on. He has a proven track record, and the Nets, who lost Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston via free agency, need him to get the most out of the players on the roster.
Of note: Individual tickets for the 2014-15 season are on-sale now and can be purchased either via brooklynnets.com or at the Barclays Center box office.
Writes Stein in his latest blog:
That count only stretches to nine if you include two players USAB sources say have emerged as Krzyzewski favorites -- Golden State's Klay Thompson and Brooklyn's Mason Plumlee -- and then presume Rose and DeMarcus Cousins (bruised knee) will be healthy enough to fulfill their planned roles.
Krzyzewski, of course, coached Plumlee at Duke, so he knows what the second-year big man is going to bring to the table.
And Plumlee has been impressive after being promoted to Team USA from the Select Team roster.
And why shouldn’t he?
“It is [nerve-wracking],” Plumlee said. “But it’s been such a long period of time. I was nervous in Vegas, but at this point, I’m just gonna show up, play my game, do what I can do.
“I feel very good about how I’ve played ... so I’m very confident with where I stand.”
Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said they wanted to get a look at fellow reserve big man Andre Drummond on Wednesday night, which meant Plumlee would have to sit out. Coach K added that there will be no cuts before Friday night’s exhibition game against Puerto Rico at MSG. Sixteen players are currently vying for 12 spots.
“Some guys didn’t play in Chicago, and then some guys didn’t play here, so I was just one of those guys,” said Plumlee, who had nine points, four rebounds and three steals in 15 minutes off the bench in Saturday’s 95-78 exhibition victory over Brazil. “I’m not looking too much into it. I feel like I’ve had a strong body of work since Vegas, so I’m just getting ready for Friday.”
Drummond, the freakishly athletic 20-year-old, who possesses a world of potential, had 12 points and five rebounds in 16 minutes on Wednesday night. But the Dominican Republic isn’t exactly considered a favorite, so it’s unknown how much stock the coaching staff and managing director Jerry Colangelo will place on Drummond’s performance.
DeMarcus Cousins, who is also in the mix for a frontcourt reserve spot behind projected starters Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried, had two points and eight rebounds in 16 minutes.
Many feel Plumlee, who is entering just his second NBA season after being named to the All-Rookie First Team in 2013-14, is only getting this opportunity because he played for Coach K at Duke. But Plumlee continues to maintain that there is no “favoritism,” -- something we discussed in the blog previously.
In this case, it’s about fit, not necessarily overall talent. But while Plumlee may be the least accomplished player in the mix, he’s certainly getting better by competing against some of the best big men in the world.
“You can’t play a pickup game like this in the summer,” Plumlee said. “It’s a great experience for all of us. And we’re going to become better players because of it.”
“I’m stick around until they tell me to go home.”