IF, and it remains a big IF, the Nets pull off an upset of the Hawks in Round 1, a lot of credit has to go to Lionel Hollins. He has, as Stefan Bondy and others note, "has pushed all the right buttons in search of an upset few thought possible."
It's not just the x's and o's, the late game adjustments. It's been the care and treatment of egos. In a season of surprises and just plain strangeness, nothing was as weird (and as wonderful) as Deron WIlliams' 35-point, seven-assist, seven-three pointer return to relevance Monday night. As Williams said, and who are we to disagree, it may have been his best game as a Net!
Who does D-WIll credit? The man who, truth be told, had exasperated and irritated him earlier in the season. Remember when Williams was benched for Jarrett Jack?
"It definitely means a lot," Williams said of Hollins defending him over the weekend. "I thanked him today after the game, and it means a lot when your coach, when you’re struggling like that, when your coach comes out and defends you the way he did, it definitely means a lot. It says a lot about how much he cares about not only me, but this team and our players."
Hollins had come down hard on the media for slamming D-Will's first two games and suggesting he was neither the player he once was nor the player the Nets needed.
"I’m disappointed in how everybody is coming down on Deron and trying to treat him like he’s a pariah," Hollins said. "Deron is a good person, he’s a good player. Now, is he on the level you guys think he should be? That’s your fault for thinking that somebody should be something."
Williams also says the veteran coach has made the right moves on the sidelines as well.
"(Hollins) has done a great job, made a lot of adjustments. We had to," added Williams. "The way we played against them in the regular season, that wasn’t going to work. In the first couple of games (in the playoffs), our ball movement wasn’t as good as it’s been the last couple. And we’ve been stressing that in practice, watching film, guys are definitely buying in, and a lot of that is because of the job he has done."
And others are noting that Hollins, to a greater or lesser degree, is a big reason for the Nets success. Coach Nick of Basketball Breakdown, Mike Prada of SB Nation, Zach Lowe of Grantland, Kyle Wagner of Deadspin and Matt Moore of CBS Sports have all analyzed what's going on in Brooklyn.
Of course, the series is tied, not over, and a lot can happen. But a lot has already happened. That's for sure!
- Hollins getting the better of Budenholzer during Nets-Hawks - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Williams shoulders Nets, helps even series with Hawks - John Schuhmann - NBA.com
- D-Will finally stands up for Brooklyn - John Torenli - Brooklyn Eagle