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In Steve Serby interview, Lionel Hollins talks talent, KG ... and Deron Williams

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David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

You're no one in New York sports until you get the Steve Serby treatment.  On Sunday, the New York Post writer asks a few questions of Lionel Hollins, about where his players are right now to individual breakdowns of virtually every rotation player as well as growing up black in America.  As usual, he takes no prisoners.  Here are some of the highlights. It's worth reading the whole thing.

On his biggest surprise...

I think we have more talent than people give us credit for. I think that healthy, we’ll be in the mix.

On what makes Kevin Garnett a great leader...

It’s his maturity, and pride in doing things the right way. He has an unbelievable work ethic, and he brings that every day, which opens him up to be an example. When you go out there and you give it every time you’re on the court, you can yell at somebody and tell somebody they’re not working hard. If you’re sporadic in your work ethic, how can you yell at somebody else? You’re not gonna be a leader because they’re not gonna respect you.

On the dissing of Deron Williams...

I hate that the media has disparaged him so much. There’s so many expectations on a guy when he comes to another team in a trade. And then, he got the big contract, and then there’s even more expectations. To not be healthy to be able to do what he wanted to do is disappointing for him. But the fans and the media didn’t quite take it that way, and I think he’s healthy now and he’s in a good frame of mind, and he’s shown a lot of qualities. … Is he gonna be the 23-year-old Deron Williams? Heck no. But the Deron Williams that he can be and I see him being is going to be pretty good. And he’s gonna be one of the top guards in the league, and that’s good enough with me.

On Brook Lopez, nice guy...

Brook Lopez is a massive man. He can really score the ball, and really smart, really a good guy … really sensitive to wanting to do everything right. I sometimes frustrate Brook because I still yell at him. And I said, "I understand that you were trying to do the right thing, or you want to do the right thing, and you think you’re doing the right thing, but it’s my job to help you do the right thing." I think nice guys like Brook think because they’re trying to do the right thing, there should be no feedback — a negative feedback. And when I say negative — constructive criticism. But my motto is: Even nice guys have to be pushed (smile).

On mental toughness...

Being able to overcome all adversity. You’re missing shots: Are you gonna quit playing because you can’t make shots, or are you gonna try to do something else? When we need you to take a big shot even though you missed a shot because you’re the guy that’s been taking ’em all the time, are you willing to take ’em? Are you willing to step in there and take a charge when you got four fouls, you know?

On growing up black in the 1960's...

Couldn’t go to a certain swimming pool. We didn’t have a Little League baseball team on our side of town. When we were bused to the other side of town, there was no late bus so we could get home. If you weren’t on that first bus, you weren’t getting home except for walking, and if you walked, your life was in danger (chuckle), you know? And nobody from that side of town was coming over there to pick you up, so you made sure you made that bus every afternoon. … All those experiences make me the man that I am now, negative or positive. And I always say that no matter what situation you’re in, there’s something to gain from it, whether it’s negative or positive.

On the unpredictability of Mirza Teletovic...

Mirza’s gonna give me a lot of gray hair (smile). I remember [Spurs coach Gregg] Popovich saying about [Manu] Ginobli, that he didn’t know what Ginobli was gonna do half the time on the court, but most of it’s good. I feel the same way about Mirza. I never know what he’s gonna do. And a lot of times it turns out to be good.