The Brooklyn Nets are in a transition phase between championship aspirations and building anew. But Lionel Hollins doesn’t see it as a gap year.
He’s the first coach to survive more than one season in Brooklyn, and his five likely starters — Jarrett Jack, Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Johnson, Thaddeus Young, and Brook Lopez — are all returning. With those five, the Nets ran a simplified system, with a lot of pick-and-roll between Deron Williams (since bought out) and Lopez.
But his plan is to start fresh in training camp, see what works, and go from there, rather than fit his players into a system.
“I don’t have a system,” Hollins said at a sit-down with the media Thursday afternoon. “Everybody thinks I have a damn system. I don’t have a system. I look at what we have as a group and I try to put together something that fits the group, and sometimes it works, and sometimes you have to move and change and go to a different system. But I don’t have a system.”
“I have some ideas of how I want to play. And we’ll try to figure out during training camp whether or not we can. And if push comes to shove, if we have to go all the way back to that, we will.”
Hollins increasingly (and not unreasonably) grew tired of the questions about how the organization — and the media — and most everyone else — sees this as a transition year. At one point, Hollins cracked about a potential controversy-stirring article headline: “Hollins disagrees with Billy King.”
As a coach, Hollins’s job (besides, you know, to keep his job) is to try to win games. That’s it. Whether he has Kevin Durant or my alter ego Devin Kurant on his roster, he has to try to win games. That overarching coaching philosophy doesn’t change, and with training camp still ahead next week, it’s the only philosophy Hollins is willing to share about the team at this point.
The Nets have built their brand in Brooklyn on veteran-heavy teams. But Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Gerald Wallace, and many others have come and gone. The Nets now have their youngest team in years, adding players like Wayne Ellington (27), Willie Reed (25), Thomas Robinson (24), Shane Larkin (22), and rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (20).
The team’s youth and athleticism would allow them to run a more up-tempo system, but most preseason predictions have the team near the bottom of the NBA after losing Williams, Mason Plumlee, Alan Anderson, and Mirza Teletovic this offseason.
“I don’t care about (predictions),” Hollins said. “You can have your projections. Everybody does. I listen to those guys every morning talk football, they have their projections. It doesn’t matter. What does it matter? We’re still going to go play.”
He pointed to the last NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors & Cleveland Cavaliers as evidence that youth trumps age in today’s NBA.
“Cleveland has Shawn Marion. Cleveland has James Jones. Cleveland has Mike Miller. Cleveland has Kendrick Perkins. Might be another. They can’t play against Golden State in the Finals,” Hollins said. “They can’t get in the game. So they had no subs, they had no depth. You’ve got to have people that can get up and down the court, and cover people, and run with people, and compete against people.
“I mean, you like veterans, you like experience. But old is old, and young is better.”
Note: this article was updated on Friday, September 25, to add two paragraphs that had been deleted accidentally from the story.