EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — As Nets coach Lionel Hollins left the team’s practice court, he walked by his starting center Brook Lopez, who laughed in his direction.
“Get out, coach!” Lopez jeered sarcastically. “That’s what they want to hear, right?”
“They” referred to the media horde that soon surrounded Lopez, after what the duo felt was a misinterpretation of a (non-)controversy between Hollins and Lopez.
“Literally, nothing happened,” Lopez shrugged.
For three quarters Sunday afternoon, Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic attacked Brook Lopez offensively, confounding him with pick-and-pops en route to 27 points and 11 rebounds through three quarters. Lopez started the fourth quarter on the bench, and stayed there for all 12 minutes; Vucevic didn’t get a single shot attempt off against Kevin Garnett or Mason Plumlee, and only corralled one more rebound as the Nets held the Magic off in a 104-96 victory.
Lopez said he understood the “team decision” that kept him on the bench in the fourth, taking a shot at the media in the process. “I said the same thing (after the victory),” Lopez added. “We went with the team he went with and we won. But you guys go with what you want, right?”
Hollins criticized Lopez’s defense after the game, saying that he wanted Lopez “to guard him” and that he needed to make a change to finish out the game. But Tuesday, Hollins wanted to “make a statement” that he thought his quotes were taken out of context.
“Brook Lopez and I were never on the wrong page, we were always on the same page,” Hollins said. “I think what I said last night was taken out of context, plus somebody made the comment that I said a max player. A player’s a player first of all. Secondly, if you go back to (Hollins’s coaching days in) Memphis, either Marc Gasol or Zach (Randolph) sat a lot in the fourth quarter, because teams are playing small and you have to match up. If they’re shooting 3’s and you can’t guard them, and you want to win the game, you have to do what’s necessary.”
Both Hollins and Lopez noted that the Nets would likely need to go small in other situations, and that they’d talked about how it could work in the future. “It was his call, and I’m obviously not thinking the exact thing he’s thinking,” Lopez added. “I don’t think there’s been enough of, really, a litmus test to say, you can say for sure what he’s going to do with what lineup.”
Hollins said his decision to leave Lopez on the bench was a strategic ploy for what the team needed at the time, not a personal indictment of Lopez’s defensive skills. Lopez had played the entire third quarter heading into the fourth. “He was already on the bench for his rest. I just decided to go in a different direction than come back with him. Brook understood, the team understood. I explained it to them afterwards and they all understood. Too much is made of it that I said I’m upset because Brook didn’t guard. It wasn’t that he didn’t guard. (Vucevic) made a lot of jump shots and Brook couldn’t get out there and match up with him. … It had nothing to do with Brook playing poorly or Brook or Brook was on my bad side or anything like that, so let’s get that straight.”