Take four for Nets at Camp Hollins
Brooklyn Players Gear Up for Yet Another Coaching Philosophy
The Brooklyn Nets are majoring in philosophy.
Coaching philosophy, that is.
As they prepare for their third season in Downtown Brooklyn, the Nets are taking their training camp cues from Lionel Hollins, their fourth coach since the franchise relocated from New Jersey.
“They stood up to the test,” Hollins revealed following grueling five-on-five defensive drills at the team’s practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J., earlier this week. “You have to endure and keep grinding, even though it’s tough.”
Toughness, especially on the defensive end, appears to be the philosophy Hollins is teaching his unit as it gears up for the 82-game grind of an NBA season, which will kick off in earnest Oct. 29 in Boston.
But that philosophy should be a familiar one to mainstays like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, each of whom was on hand when Avery Johnson – remember him? – was preparing the Nets for their inaugural campaign in Brooklyn back in 2012.
That head coach, who preached a defense-first philosophy, didn’t make it past New Year’s as assistant P.J. Carlesimo was installed to lead the Nets the rest of the way.
Carlesimo proved quite capable, opening up the offense a bit as the franchise posted the most road victories in its history and earned a No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
But a first-round ousting at the hands of Chicago in the playoffs led to yet another switch in philosophy.
Jason Kidd’s surprising arrival as head coach only months after his retirement as a player brought with it a belief that the Nets players would embrace being led by one of their own.
Following a 10-21 start, Brooklyn was one of the best teams in the league in the second half and finally won a playoff series, knocking off Toronto in seven tough games before succumbing to the Miami Heat in the conference semifinals.
The Nets’ strong finish was predicated on Kidd’s implementation of a small-ball, up-and-down, turnover-driven style that catered to his more diminutive players’ skills in the absence of Lopez, who was lost for the season before Jan. 1.
But Kidd’s well-chronicled failed power play within the Nets’ hierarchy landed him in Milwaukee soon after, and brought Hollins to Brooklyn, where a new coaching strategy and philosophy is currently being taught: Play big, play tough and don’t give up anything without a fight.
“We just worked the basics so they can learn it,” noted Hollins, who built one of the league’s top defensive teams during a four-year run in Memphis that saw the Grizzlies reach the Western Conference Finals.
“Every day there’s progress,” he added. “Every day we learn terminology, like learning how to ride a bike. Some days you have setbacks, but all in all it’s about growing.”
The Nets are growing all right.
Growing accustomed to learning a new coaching philosophy from a new head coach virtually every time they turn around.
If billionaire Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King are serious about their commitment to Hollins’ tough-as-nails, defensive-minded approach, they’ll give him more than a season or two to install it and, more importantly, reap the benefits of it.
“Practice has been tough,” admitted Williams, who is finally enjoying his first Brooklyn training camp without a pair of cranky ankles. “We’ve had to work, but I think that’s going to make the games seem easy.”
The Nets will get their first taste of game action under the new regime on Oct. 7, when they host European champion Maccabi Tel-Aviv at the Barclays Center on Oct. 7.
Williams, who appeared to have some difficulty communicating with Coach Johnson, flourished under Coach Carlesimo and enjoyed mixed results during an injury plagued campaign with Coach Kidd, is promoting Hollins’ grueling practices … at least thus far, he is.
“I think we’re really aggressive right now, defensively,” Williams said. “Working hard helps with the conditioning. The better shape you’re in, the better defense you’ll play.”
The Nets, who have finished 18th and 19th in team defense, respectively, during their first two seasons here in our fair borough, are ready to embrace Hollins’ philosophy, which, in the end, is really a very simple one.
“Stop your guy from scoring more points than you …. and win the game,” Hollins said when pushed on his coaching staples. “We just want to win.”
So did Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo and Jason Kidd.
It’s now up to Prokhorov and King to make sure Hollins gets a fair opportunity to do so, without time constraints.
Philosophically speaking, it’s about time we gave the coach here some time to succeed.
Nothing But Net: F Andrei Kirilenko, who is back for his second season in Brooklyn, is dealing with a bad back again. After missing five consecutive practices due spasms, which limited him to only 45 games a season ago, the Russian forward participated in the non-contact portion of the Nets’ practice on Thursday morning. … F Alan Anderson believes the 2014-15 Nets are built to embrace their new coach’s style. “The core that came back, we have a lot of great guys,” said Anderson, who will compete with Kirilenko and Bojan Bogdanovic for the small forward spot vacated by Paul Pierce this past offseason. “It’s a lot easier to play with guys who are unselfish.”
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