— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) September 27, 2014
“System of what?”
That was Lionel Hollins’s reaction when asked about implementing last year’s on-court principles. “When I was watching what they did last year, it was watching players. It wasn’t trying to watch what they did, because it’s really not the same team,” the coach said, referring to the team’s lineup switch last season necessitated by Brook Lopez’s injury.
Seems like everything’s just a little bit different. Last year, opening day of training camp was at the lavish Duke University facility, alma mater of Nets general manager Billy King and rookie Mason Plumlee, as new rookie head coach Jason Kidd threw together a “gumbo” system. This season’s camp began low-key in their Rutherford practice facility, with different structure with new veteran coach Hollins.
The Nets rarely practiced last season, to the extent that Joe Johnson couldn’t help but start laughing when asked about it. But Hollins, who reportedly loves practice, ran the team about 35 minutes later than the expected media time on the first day.
“Lionel’s more seasoned,” Joe Johnson said of his new coach. “He’s not a rookie. This isn’t his first head coaching job, as opposed to J-Kidd. He kind of learned on the fly. I enjoyed my duration with Jason, and it was short-lived, but we’ve moved on. Now we’ve got a coach who’s been around the block, so to speak. … He’s been in a lot of situations that – probably every situation you can think of during the game,” Johnson added. “So I don’t think anything would rattle him.”
Is it a total reboot? “Yeah, I think so,” Johnson said.
After leading the Memphis Grizzlies to a franchise-best 56-26 record in 2012-13, Hollins was let go by the team, with philosophical differences between Hollins and Memphis’s analytically inclined front office. “It felt very painful, my feet are hurting, my back is hurting,” Hollins joked about his first day back as a coach. “But other than that, it felt great to be in the gym. I was excited. I actually had butterflies before we came out, and it was just a good day.”
Training camp is for a number of things: implementing a new system and identity, getting accustomed to specific roles, and figuring out rotations, for starters. “We put in some offense, and just forming good habits really,” Deron Williams said of the goals. “I think that’s what this training camp is about, forming habits on both ends of the floor and coming together as a team, as one unit, as quickly as possible.”
The Nets struggled to find an identity last season, a struggle Hollins isn’t hoping to repeat. He’s started implementing his system slowly, specifically referring to “plays” on offense and “schemes” on defense. He was surprised by the team’s defensive intensity on day one, but wants to create habits, cracking a joke about his own. “Now: can we come back and back it up tonight? Can we back it up tomorrow and make it be who we are? That’s how you get to be. Everything you do in life is all about doing it every day until it becomes who you are. I don’t eat healthy, so I know that that’s not who I am.”
- Before camp, Hollins said that Lopez and Williams both looked “good” health-wise. Before camp, Lopez was expected to only play in one of the team’s two-a-day practices, but since the second session is a one-hour practice with no-contact, he expects Lopez to return for the afternoon session. Lopez did not speak with the media.
- Despite his earlier insistence that the fifth starting spot would likely go to a guard, Hollins played forward Andrei Kirilenko with the starters on the first day.
- Joe Johnson dropped weight in the offseason, but doesn’t know exactly how much. He says he feels lighter than he’s felt since his early years in Boston and Phoenix.