Brook Lopez & Lionel Hollins have some clear differences.
Near the end of the third quarter Friday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Brook Lopez didn’t help quickly on a driving Serge Ibaka for Nets coach Lionel Hollins. It wasn’t the first time Lopez had missed an assignment in help defense, and it led to a spirited discussion between the struggling star center and the old-school coach.
It was the straw that broke the camel’s creaky back: Lopez and Hollins argued for a few seconds, and when a timeout was called on the next possession, Hollins simply pointed to the end of the bench, signaling for third-string center Jerome Jordan to enter the game, and for Lopez to sit down.
It was not the only time Lopez and Hollins had a disagreement in Brooklyn’s 94-92 victory.
In the first half, Lopez cut to the corner to set a screen for Jarrett Jack. But Jack — and Hollins — didn’t want Lopez there; Hollins yelled at Lopez to instead run a pick-and-roll with ballhandler Deron Williams, leading to an exuberant and profane outburst from the seven-footer.
Lopez and Hollins have clashed on a few occasions this season, though they’ve insisted the notion of a “feud” between the two is misguided. Hollins has challenged Lopez on his weaknesses (namely, defense and rebounding) publicly, as Lopez has struggled to re-integrate himself on the court after missing nearly a full calendar year of NBA basketball to heal a fractured bone in his foot.
It wouldn’t have been surprising if Hollins, ever the motivator, elected to bench Lopez for the rest of the game. But Lopez returned to the game with 7:53 left in the fourth, and he showed new life, helping more quickly on the perimeter, even blocking a three-point attempt by Andre Roberson with 58 seconds left, in a game the Nets won by just two points. Lopez ended with 16 points, and a game-high — and season-high — ten rebounds, marking his first double-double in a regular season game since April 9th, 2013.
This may just be how Lopez and Hollins best communicate: Hollins yelling at Lopez to get into proper position, and Lopez getting out his frustrations in the flow of the game. It’s how Hollins has made his mark as a coach, and helped transform Marc Gasol into a Defensive Player of the Year. Lopez doesn’t have that type of ceiling on the defensive end, but he did play an integral part down the stretch in a Nets victory. All’s well that ends well, right?