Brooklyn Nets: Brooklyn Nets

How Lionel Hollins evolved into a coach

September, 2, 2014
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SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- It’s Friday afternoon, and Lionel Hollins is multitasking: answering questions from a reporter while signing autographs for kids participating in the first-ever Brooklyn Nets Basketball Camp.

As the interview is ongoing, one of the youngsters walks up to Hollins with a couple of requests: he wants the new head coach of the Nets to sign his jersey and a basketball.

“You want me to sign my life away to you too?” Hollins jokes.

[+] EnlargeLionel Hollins
Spruce Derden/USA TODAY SportsLionel Hollins has a reputation as an "old-school" coach.
The 10-year-old and the 60-year-old then pose for a quick selfie.

This is the side of Hollins that very few people see. Because when he’s on the court directing his players, his personality changes.

Over the years, Hollins has developed a reputation as an “old-school, no-nonsense” type of coach.

It’s one of the main reasons why Nets general manager Billy King decided Hollins was the right man for the job following Jason Kidd’s abrupt departure to Milwaukee.

Hollins, King felt, would push his players, challenge them, get them to play tough, tenacious defense. Hollins did just that in Memphis, turning the Grizzlies into a perennial playoff contender in the formidable Western Conference.

“I don’t know what ‘old-school’ is,” Hollins responded when asked how he developed his coaching style. “When it comes to playing, it’s about a philosophy of trying to go out there and get our team to play as hard as they can and as well as they can and together as often as they can.”

“You’re trying to win the game,” he continues. “I mean, ‘old-school’ or ‘new-school,’ that’s what everybody’s goal is. Everybody has a personality of how they get it done. I tell people all the time, we have fun. I’m not an ogre, but I do have expectations of when we’re in the gym, we work. And if you’re gonna be in the gym, you work. And if you can’t, then there will be someone else there waiting for an opportunity. I don’t think that we can say that that’s any different from anybody else coaching.”

Hollins became a coach long before he officially became a coach. During his playing days -- from youth ball to high school to college to an NBA career that spanned from 1975-85 -- Hollins exhibited several coaching traits on the floor: from his mental fortitude to his leadership.

“Billy Cunningham [my head coach when I played for the Philadelphia 76ers from 1980-82] was probably the first coach that was telling me that he thought I could coach, and I should get into coaching,” said Hollins. “I had never really considered it, although in every sport I played I was always into it from a big picture, team perspective versus what my job was or what I could get myself.”

[+] EnlargeLionel Hollins
Getty ImagesHollins was part of the Portland Trail Blazers 1976-77 championship team as a player.
“Then I played for [Detroit Pistons coach] Chuck Daily (in 1983-84) toward the end of my career, and Chuck told me that he didn’t think he could bring me back as a player, but he’d have an opportunity for me as a coach,” Hollins continued. “I actually turned him down at the time and played one more year [with the Houston Rockets], and then I wound up at Arizona State [my alma mater] and ended up coaching in college for a couple years before getting back into the pros.”

His coaching resume is extensive and wide-ranging. Hollins was a long-time assistant with the Phoenix Suns (1988-95). He served as an interim coach with the Grizzlies in 1999-2000 and 2004. Hollins also coached in the International Basketball League (2000-01) and the United States Basketball League (2002). The season before he got hired again in Memphis, Hollins was an assistant with the Bucks (2008-09).

With Hollins at the helm, the Grizzlies’ winning percentage spiked from .561 in 2010-11 to .621 in 2011-12 to .683 in 2012-13. The 2012-13 team won a franchise-record 56 games and advanced to the conference finals. In each of his last three seasons with the team, Memphis finished in the top-10 in defensive efficiency. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley Jr. turned into a young, potent trio. But the Grizzlies ultimately decided to move in another direction, a contentious relationship between Hollins and Memphis ownership serving as the crux of their decision.

“I don’t emulate [anyone],” Hollins said. “I’ve taken a lot of stuff from a lot of coaches that I’ve worked for just as part of the process, but I think all along I always had a vision of how I thought the game should be played, and I just like for people to go out and do their jobs to the best of their ability every time they’re on the court. You can’t always win, but you can always go out there and compete. And after you do that, the winning and losing takes care of itself: whether it’s talent or somebody throwing up a lucky 75-foot shot that wins the game at the end. There’s nothing you can do about it, but you went out there you competed and gave what you had on that particular night.”

Hollins faces several challenges heading into next season:

1. Helping Deron Williams (offseason surgery on both ankles) regain his confidence and return to All-Star form.

2. Turning gifted scorer Brook Lopez (foot/ankle surgery) into more of an impactful player on the defensive end.

3. Developing younger players like Bojan Bogdanovic, Mason Plumlee and Sergey Karasev.

4. Figuring out what type of system his team is going to play and how they’re going to play in.

5. Developing a rotation which enables his team to become a cohesive unit.

But Hollins isn’t at that point yet. After all, he’s still looking for a place to live. He wanted have that done already, but circumstances out of his control, he says, have prohibited it from happening just yet.

“I need to get to know who my players are, their personalities, what they can and can’t do,” Hollins said. “And then I need to lay the groundwork and get them to believe in what my vision is for them and then get them to execute.”

Sounds daunting. A lot tougher than signing a couple autographs and taking a selfie, that’s for sure.

But, as he said, that’s what training camp and the preseason is for.

“It’s always an evolving situation,” Hollins said. “[A system’s] not something that you put in one day and then that’s it. It’s something that’s constantly evolving and growing. Defense grows and offense grows. You put in some plays, then you put in more plays. It’s on-going, and you just try to keep it growing and evolving.”

There’s some concern that his personality might clash with his players. But Hollins’ track record is quite impressive, which is why King believes in him. And there’s no doubt Hollins believes in himself. Now it’s time to get to work. In a month, his system will begin to grow and evolve in Brooklyn.

Burning Q's: Can Jack replace Livingston?

September, 1, 2014
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the Brooklyn Nets.

Today’s question: Can Jarrett Jack replace Shaun Livingston?

This is what Jason Kidd envisioned happening last season, when the Nets were exploring trade opportunities before the February trading deadline.

[+] EnlargeJarrett Jack
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsJarrett Jack has pretty big shoes to fill, replacing Shaun Livingston.
The Nets knew there was a strong likelihood of losing Livingston in free agency. Jack was a prime candidate as a combo guard who might be able to ease the blow of Livingston’s pending departure.

Even after Kidd left for Milwaukee, the Nets decided to acquire Jack in a trade, basically to replace Livingston. Like Livingston, Jack is capable of playing point guard and shooting guard. Jack can get hot offensively, fast. He is two seasons removed from averaging 15.6 points and 6.3 assists in 45 games for New Orleans back in 2011-'12. The following season, Jack averaged 12.9 points, 5.6 assists and shot 40 percent from beyond the arc in 79 games for Golden State.

And Jack starred in the postseason, averaging 17.2 points, 4.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 12 playoff games for the Warriors in 2013.

Last season, though, Jack’s averages dipped to 9.5 points, 4.1 assists and 34 percent shooting from 3-point range. The Nets will find out if Jack didn’t produce because of the situation he was in with the Cavaliers last season, or because his game is on the decline.

Nets GM Billy King is betting that he will be more like the Golden State Jack than the Cleveland Jack this season. It remains to be seen how coach Lionel Hollins will use Jack. But he has options.

Jack could come off the bench and be a super sub who can play either guard spot and provide scoring punch. Or Hollins could do what Kidd did with Livingston and play him alongside Deron Williams for stretches, allowing Jack to handle the ball and distribute while Williams concentrates on scoring. We will have to see if Jack can run the offense as smoothly as Livingston did.

What Jack can’t do that Livingston brought was the ability to be a dual threat in the post. The 6-foot-7 Livingston could score and pass out of the paint. Also, Livingston was a major asset defensively. Livingston could play and defend three different positions (point guard, shooting guard, small forward), and he sparked the defense with his active hands.

Jack likely won’t be able to duplicate those things. But he is as close to a replacement as the Nets could have found for Livingston. He won’t replace everything Livingston gave the Nets. But he can provide more scoring punch and some of the versatility in the backcourt Livingston brought.

Question: Do you think Jack will replace Livingston successfully this season?

Hollins looking forward to facing Grizzlies

September, 1, 2014
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SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Lionel Hollins is looking forward to return to Memphis on Feb. 10.

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.

Lionel Hollins looked for staff with best 'fit'

August, 30, 2014
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Brooklyn Nets coach Lionel Hollins addressed several topics Friday. Here are some the leftovers:

• 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.”

Hollins
Hollins
• On whether he can utilize Brook Lopez like Marc Gasol: “I’m gonna utilize Brook in a way that fits Brook. Like I said, he’s a very talented kid, skilled kid, and he’ll be a very talented piece of what we’re trying to do offensively, but I want him to be a big part of what we’re trying to do defensively as well.”

• 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.”

Hollins: D-Will's health key to flourishing

August, 29, 2014
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SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams, plagued by ankle injuries in each of the last two seasons, has talked about lacking confidence on a few occasions.

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.”

Burning Q's: Can D-Will regain star form?

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the Brooklyn Nets.

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.

[+] EnlargeDeron Williams
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesCan Deron Williams return to elite status in the NBA?
Since the 2011-12 season, when he averaged 21 points and 8.7 assists, Williams’ game has been on the decline physically and mentally. Injuries took its toll on the point guard, who needs to hit the reset button and jump-start his game again.

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?

Burning Q's: Can Plumlee take next step?

August, 27, 2014
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the Brooklyn Nets.

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.

SportsNation

Will Mason Plumlee take the next step this season?

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    92%
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    8%

Discuss (Total votes: 406)

Think about it: How does Plumlee spend a pivotal summer entering his second pro season? By practicing daily against the likes of 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 likes Knicks better than Nets

August, 25, 2014
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Las Vegas likes the New York Knicks’ odds better than the Brooklyn Nets heading into the 2014-15 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?

Burning Q's: Will new Nets learn quickly?

August, 25, 2014
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First, the good news: The Brooklyn Nets are returning at least eight players from last season’s team: Alan Anderson, Joe Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko, Brook Lopez, Mason Plumlee, Marquis Teague, Mirza Teletovic and Deron Williams. Make it nine if, as expected, Kevin Garnett returns. And make it 10 if Jorge Gutierrez manages to make the team out of training camp.

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.

Mason Plumlee makes Team USA

August, 23, 2014
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NEW YORK -- Mason Plumlee has officially gone from the Select Team to Team USA.

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.

Plumlee waits for Team USA final cuts

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
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NEW YORK -- Mason Plumlee didn’t sound like a guy who’s going to get cut.

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.”

Burning Q's: How will Hollins fare?

August, 22, 2014
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Hollins
Hollins
Under the guidance of Lionel Hollins, the Memphis Grizzlies became a force to be reckoned with in the West, reaching the conference finals in 2012-13, the coach’s final season with the team.

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.

Stein: Plumlee a favorite for Team USA

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
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ESPN’s Marc Stein reported Thursday that Mason Plumlee has emerged as a favorite of Mike Krzyzewski in his quest to make Team USA’s World Cup-bound squad.

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.

Plumlee thinks he'll make Team USA roster

August, 20, 2014
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NEW YORK -- Despite not getting any playing time in Team USA’s 105-62 blowout exhibition victory over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, Brooklyn Nets big man Mason Plumlee remains confident that he is going to make the World Cup-bound squad.

And why shouldn’t he?

[+] EnlargeMason Plumlee
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty ImagesMason Plumlee has made the most out of his Team USA opportunity.
After all, Plumlee has made the most of his opportunity since he was promoted from the Select Team in Las Vegas, impressing in both practices and games.

“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.”

Brook Lopez: I'll be ready for regular season

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
6:28
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NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez, looking noticeably slimmer at a community event Wednesday at Barclays Center, reiterated that there is “no question” he will be ready to play at the beginning of the season.

Lopez, who said he just got cleared to begin running last Monday, is recovering from foot and ankle surgery. He was limited to 17 games last season.

“I’ve tried to remain positive. Finally being back is a great feeling. I’ve never been so excited to do little things like jump rope, stretch and run a little,” Lopez said at a Coca-Cola-sponsored event to promote healthy lifestyles for Boys and Girls Club teenagers in Flatbush. “But there’s no question I’m going to be ready to go at the beginning of the season.”

[+] EnlargeBrook Lopez
David Santiago/Getty ImagesBrook Lopez is recovering from foot and ankle surgery.
Lopez has been working at the team’s practice facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey, running, jumping, shooting and doing defensive slide drills, as he makes his way back from injury.

He says he currently weighs just under 275 pounds -- a weight he says is normal for him.

“I’m definitely more comfortable, but I think that just comes with being more active again,” Lopez said.

Asked about learning how to run again after having a bone repositioned in his foot as part of the surgery, Lopez said, “It’s good. I feel like I still have to get more power under my legs in general. I’m not worried about my feet. It’s getting the power back in my lower legs I lost when I had to lie around.”

He doesn’t know when he will be able to play 5-on-5, noting that many of his teammates are still away, meaning it would be pretty hard to make that happen. The Nets open training camp on Sept. 27.

The Nets are going to need their 26-year-old center to be healthy and productive. They lost Paul Pierce to the Washington Wizards but are hopeful that Lopez’s ability to score in the post makes up for the departure of the championship-winning veteran.

“I view it that Washington made a great pickup,” Lopez said. “It’s a great place for ‘Truth’ to be. But we have to focus on what we have here and the way Mason [Plumlee] has been growing this summer and the fact that D-Will [Deron Williams] will be healthy, I will be healthy, and the other players will continue to grow. We’ve gained a lot.”

Plumlee is currently vying for a spot on Team USA’s roster in advance of the World Cup.

Lopez believes the two young bigs could form a formidable frontcourt tandem for Brooklyn.

“I think we complement each other very well,” Lopez said. “He likes to get up-and-down the floor, he’s athletic, but I think the most important thing, though, is as long as we have high basketball IQ players who are unselfish and are willing to do whatever it takes for the team’s game, five of those players on the floor and we’ll be all right.”

Lopez has spoken with new coach Lionel Hollins.

“I’ve met with him. I love what he did in Memphis,” Lopez said. “He had some great teams out there, and my high school teammate Quincy [Pondexter] played for him and learned a lot under him and grew as a player, so I hope to do the same.”

Lopez should be able to play in the post in Hollins’ offensive system, something he may have had to change with Jason Kidd at the helm.

“I know I can go out there and play, but whatever role he has for me, I’ll gladly accept it,” Lopez said.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Brook Lopez
PTS AST STL MIN
20.7 0.9 0.5 31.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsK. Garnett 6.6
AssistsD. Williams 6.1
StealsD. Williams 1.5
BlocksB. Lopez 1.8