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Unhappy homecoming for Nets coach Hollins

Anemic Nets Enter All-Star Break on Three-Game Losing Streak

February 11, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Nets coach Lionel Hollins had an emotional, but ultimately unsuccessful, return to Memphis on Tuesday night. AP photo
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The Grizzlies gave Nets first-year head coach Lionel Hollins a moving video tribute Tuesday night in honor of his long-time service with the franchise, both in Vancouver and Memphis.

“It was great,” Hollins said of the pre-game display of affection from the 16,901 fans stuffed into the FedExForum, not to mention his former players.

“I enjoyed it, from a standpoint that the respect that they showed and admiration for the work that I’ve done here,” Hollins added. “But it was about trying to win a game.”

That part of the evening didn’t go so well as Brooklyn (21-31) suffered its third consecutive loss, 95-86, entering this weekend’s All-Star break, dropping 10 games below .500 and a full game behind Charlotte for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.

Hollins, who spent more than 15 years as both an assistant and head coach for the Grizzlies, leading them to a franchise-record 56 wins and a berth in the Western Conference just two years ago, watched helplessly as players he helped wean to stardom toyed with his current club.

Marc Gasol scored 14 points and pulled down 11 rebounds and Zach Randolph poured in 18 points as the Grizzlies (39-13) opened a 32-15 lead after the first quarter and never looked back.

”It was great to have him back in the building and just to see him in all those sharp suits he’s wearing,” said Memphis swingman Tony Allen of Hollins after burning his coach with a perfect 5-for-5 shooting performance en route to 12 points.

Mason Plumlee had 15 points and 14 rebounds for Brooklyn, which averted the embarrassment of a blowout in Hollins’ return to Memphis, but never seriously challenged the Grizzlies for the lead.

”We fought back and gave ourselves a chance,” Plumlee said. ”But we don’t have the firepower to get behind 20 points and come back.”

Nor does it seem the Nets are capable of putting together the type of run that they enjoyed last year at this time, when they dramatically turned a 10-21 start into a playoff berth and spot in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

But don’t tell Hollins that.

The Memphis resident may have enjoyed his homecoming, but he’s still focused on pushing these struggling Nets back to the playoffs for a third consecutive year since their arrival in Downtown Brooklyn.

“We’ve got 30 games left and we’re still in the playoff hunt,” Hollins reminded everyone. “We need everybody to get rested. We need everybody to get healthy and see if we could come back and put together a run and make the playoffs.”

One player who did show signs of recovery was Deron Williams, who had misfired on his previous 13 shots and showed little sign of improvement since returning from a rib injury six games ago.

The Nets’ $98 million point guard scored 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting and handed out four assists in 28 minutes.

Jarrett Jack, the player who has taken Williams’ spot in the starting lineup, left the contest near the end of the third quarter after taking a kick to the leg. Jack, who scored 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting, is expected to be fine when the Nets return to the hardwood Feb. 20 in Los Angeles against the Lakers.

With the Feb. 19 trade deadline approaching, general manager Billy King will likely be the busiest Net during the next week as he tries to find a deal that will somehow catapult Brooklyn out of its current malaise.

The Nets have lost seven of their last 10 games and will return from the break to complete the final five lengths of their ongoing season-high eight-game road trip.

Though he indicated that he believes the Nets will not make any big deals before the deadline, Hollins has to be hoping that a nine-day break between games will give his players time to realize that they still have a lot they can accomplish over the next two months.

”Hopefully it will give guys a chance to take a step back, clear their minds and get ready to make a push these last 30 games,” Plumlee said.

Nothing But Net: Plumlee, who will participate in this weekend’s Slam Dunk competition and Rising Stars Challenge at the Barclays Center, posted his 11th double-double of the season against Memphis. … Williams, who had gone 2-for-22 from the field over his previous three games, did not speak to the media following Tuesday night’s loss. … The Nets still have an open roster spot King can fill due to the loss of Mirza Teletovic (blood clots in his lungs) for the remainder of the season.

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