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Who's the most important 'player' for Brooklyn Nets? Hint: he's the coach

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Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Lionel Hollins started his second year as a coach of the Brooklyn Nets Tuesday in the friendly confines of the Michael W. Krzyzewski Center on the Duke.  For most teams, that's no big deal but the Nets it is.  This is the first time in the team's Brooklyn history that the same coach ran the first practice a year after the previous year.

Avery Johnson was gone by Christmas, replaced by P.J. Carlesimo. Carlesimo was gone after the Nets lost to the Bulls in the playoffs and was succeeded by Jason Kidd. He lasted till late June when he absconded to Milwaukee. Last year, it was Hollins. Now, it's Hollins again.

As Mike Mazzeo notes, Hollins first season in Brooklyn was not exactly a success, although Hollins said last May that making the playoffs was a good thing. As Mazzeo writes...

Hollins’ rotations were confusing at times, his public criticisms of players rankled ownership and he never took responsibility for the team’s disappointing season.

This season, it's fair to say that Hollis IS the man, much more than any of his players. As one national writer told NetsDaily, the first two words of his season preview are likely to be "Lionel Hollins."

Unlike last season, Hollins won't have to introduce himself to so many of his players. Half of the 20 players in camp have played for Hollins: the seven returning vets, all rotation players last year, will be joined by Dahntay Jones, Wayne Ellington and Willie Reed who played for him in Memphis.  Each one of them praised Hollins in interviews Monday. Each one of them used the words, "old school" or "honest" or "tough" to describe him.

Thaddeus Young told Mazzeo that he feels the same way, recounting the aftermath of a Nets game not long after he was traded to Brooklyn.  Young has played minimal minutes and the Nets had lost a close game. Young was not pleased.  But Hollins was direct in explaining why he didn't play.

"Coach came straight at me and said, ‘Thad, I’m sorry but you don’t know the plays yet, you don’t know the offense yet, and I have to put people out there that I feel give us the best chance to win. And I couldn’t do anything but respect that."

Ultimately, Hollins didn't think he had the horses last season, admitting he was mistaken about the team's potential.  On of the other hand, he likes what he's seen so far.  At the end of practice, he told the two reporters present at Duke -- Rod Boone and Tim Bontemps what he thought about the day's events.


Of course, it's a long way between now and April (or beyond) and things change, evolve, etc.  But for now --and the foreseeable future-- the Nets fortunes are in Hollins hands.