It's not as if Lionel Hollins is the first Nets coach to needle Brook Lopez about his game. Avery Johnson did a bit of it, telling reporters "I dream about our center getting 10 rebounds.". P.J. Carlesimo did something else, benching Lopez for three fourth quarters in a week two years ago.
But Hollins takes it a bit further, is a bit more direct, as Tim Bontemps writes, recalling what the new coach said a week into training camp.
"Making Brook a better basketball player is a priority. Being tougher, being more aggressive, thinking that every time the play is for him, but also being a guy that’s passing the ball to his open teammates.
"Just being more aggressive, being tougher, rebounding better … just being a force in the paint. When you’re 7-foot, 260, I’d like for him to be a force, but I would like all of our big guys to play tougher, more aggressive."
After the win over the Magic, Hollins was direct again, explaining why he benched Lopez for Kevin Garnett in the fourth quarter after Nikola Vucevic dominated Lopez in the first three.
"The kid made a lot of shots tonight. Brook was watching him make a lot of shots. I needed somebody who was going to stop him from taking those shots."
On Tuesday, in an interview with SiriusXM Radio, Hollins said he did not "bench" Lopez, that that was a "misnomer," that Lopez was taking his normal rest, but that when Hollins saw how well things were working defensively, he decided to stick with smaller lineup. He also said that it is "not personal" with Lopez and that Lopez understands that he is trying to make him a "better basketball player."
Lopez, of course, is coming back from having nearly a year without basketball but Hollins wants more out of him and so far, Lopez has aid all the right things, perhaps noting what his coach did for Marc Gasol in Memphis. And Hollins is not above leavening criticism with praise, saying, as Bontemps notes, that ""Brook played fine," and "hopefully the next time we play, our regular lineup will work."
Lopez will face some big challenges this week on the coast, including his first back-to-back. Hollins will be watching and coaching.
- The tightrope Hollins must walk in bashing Brook Lopez - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Is Hollins’ tough love working for Brook Lopez? - Brian Erni - SNY Nets
Brook Lopez, Lionel Hollins downplay notion of conflict: "Literally, nothing happened" - Devin Kharpertian