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Confident and cantankerous, Lionel Hollins hopes for a team "as good as it can be"

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

He may have lost 22 pounds --and Deron Williams-- but Lionel Hollins remains the same confident if cankerous and unwilling to commit news. He, like Billy King, spoke to beat writers Thursday.

Hollins did say he's penciling in Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young, Joe Johnson, Bojan Bogdanovic --his "core" as the starters on Opening Night a month from now, but noted that if things don't work, he will make changes as he did last year, putting Deron Williams and Brook Lopez on the bench. Lopez adapted and thrived. Williams did not.

Hollins however would not commit to a system, a style of play. That he said depends on what he sees from his players, 19 of whom are healthy.

"I don’t have a system," Hollins said. "Everybody thinks I have a damn system. I don’t have a system. I look at what we have as a group and I try to put together something that fits the group, and sometimes it works, and sometimes you have to move and change and go to a different system. But I don’t have a system."

It's not as if he has no ideas.

"I have some ideas of how I want to play. And we’ll try to figure out during training camp whether or not we can. And if push comes to shove, if we have to go all the way back to that, we will."

Hollins who a month ago told Mike Mazzeo he thought the Nets could be a "very good team," sorta revised that, sounding like a U.S. Army commercial.

"To go out and be as good as you can be," Hollins said. "Where that falls, we’ll see when it comes to April."

Okay, does that mean lowered expectations? A rebuilding year?  Nope.

""Nobody’s said wait until next summer. We're going out and trying to win. Whether we can or not remains to be seen," he said. "But it's not my mindset and the player's mindset is not going out there, 'We don't have to try to win this year because it's a gap year, and the expectations have changed because we broke this group up versus that group up.' Whatever group you put together, you're trying to win. I don't think that you sit around saying, we'll wait until next summer."

He also took at shot the pundits who think his team is "putrid," "pocket lint," "a pretty sad little roster," "likely lottery" or other fun terms that could supply a season's worth of bulletin board material.

"I don’t care about (predictions)," Hollins said. "You can have your projections. Everybody does. I listen to those guys every morning talk football, they have their projections. It doesn’t matter. What does it matter? We’re still going to go play."

Hollins also likes that he has a younger roster, five years younger than the team that Mikhail Prokhorov could win it all two years ago and two years younger than last season.  He pointed to the Golden State Warriors advantage over the veteran Cavaliers in last year's Finals.

"Cleveland has Shawn Marion. Cleveland has James Jones. Cleveland has Mike Miller. Cleveland has Kendrick Perkins. Might be another. They can’t play against Golden State in the Finals," Hollins said. "They can’t get in the game. So they had no subs, they had no depth. You’ve got to have people that can get up and down the court, and cover people, and run with people, and compete against people.

"I mean, you like veterans, you like experience. But old is old, and young is better."

He was also asked if if it's hard to coach when management is cost-cutting/looking long term. "You'll have to ask a coach who's gone through that." he replied, apparently disregarding his criticism of Memphis ownership.