The Nets Under Lionel Hollins Are A Better Team

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    Updated: November 9, 2014
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    The Brooklyn Nets have gotten off to a very good start in the 2014-2015 NBA season. 3-2 isn’t exactly coming out of the gate flying, but it’s a far better start than where the Nets were last season. This Nets team has virtually the same core as it did last year with a few tweaks, but there’s a different vibe around this squad.

    They play more aggressive and with a chip on their shoulder which is great to see. A lot is going right early in this NBA season, and if things go as planned, the Nets can make some noise all year-long.

     

    The Corner Stone Players Look Much Better…

     

    The Nets are based around a foundation of their two star players Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. The Nets managed to get to the playoffs last season with Lopez only playing 17 games due to season ending foot surgery in December. Deron, whose health had been spotty for the past few seasons, has been a shell of the player the Nets acquired from the Utah Jazz 5 years ago.

    Between poor physical conditioning, hurt ankles and loss of confidence, Deron posted career low numbers last season across the board. It gotten so bad that during the Nets first round playoff series against the Toronto Raptors, this poster was circulating outside of the arena: But in fairness, Deron is making $20 million a season and deserves every ounce of criticism he’s received. But instead of working through the injury problem, he got off-season surgery on both ankles and voila, he’s playing like old Deron again.

    In the last two games against the Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks, Deron has been the best player on the court for either team on both nights. Against the Wolves he was having his way with Ricky Rubio, and against the Knicks he was giving Iman Shumpert fits.

    Shumpert is an elite-level defender but Williams torched him and backup point guard Shane Larkin for 29 points. Williams’ intensity is back, he’s controlling the flow of the game, and his confidence is higher than its been in years. If both Brook and Deron can stay healthy, they’ll be the catalyst for this team to go further into the playoffs than they have the past two season.

     

    The Old Guard Meets The New Boys…

     

    When the trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce happened in the summer of 2013, I was sure it would help the Nets really give the Miami Heat a run for their money. Unfortunately Lopez got hurt, Deron was playing subpar basketball, Pierce didn’t get going until the second half of the season, and KG looked like his tank was on empty. At the end of last season I was sure KG would retire.

    KG refused to call it quits on his illustrious career and prior to 2014-2015 season, he said he would be playing with much more intensity. So far, he’s delivered. Garnett is nowhere near the same player he was in his prime, but he still grabs rebounds and gets in opposing players faces as much as possible.

    He can still hit the mid-range jumper in spurts and is a leader on the court and on the bench. This is the KG the Nets thought they were getting last year.

    Last season was an off-year for KG but this season he’s already giving it all for the team and he’s vastly improved, and it’s good to see. Which brings me the other resident old man on the Nets, Joe Johnson. Johnson has been the most consistently good Nets player since he arrived via trade from the Atlanta Hawks. This tweet sums up Johnson in a nut shell:

    It is 100% accurate and one of the rarest anomalies in sports. Johnson never gets the props he deserves because his contract is inflated and he plays for New York City’s second basketball team. The Nets are still trying to make a name for themselves and lost behind the branding of Lopez and Deron and even KG and Pierce when they got here was Johnson.

    Everything Johnson does goes under the radar until he hits a game winning shot (which he’s done more often than not the last two seasons) and is carrying the team in the 4th quarter.

    Johnson is a good defender, a clutch shooter and an all around good teammate. His quiet demeanor keeps him out of the limelight but his All-star call up last season shows he does not go unnoticed in the league by basketball coaches who know what he brings to the table. With Joe Johnson and KG as the seasoned veterans, guys like Mirza Teletovic, Mason Plumlee and Bojan Bogdonovic are growing up quickly.

    Plumlee is getting better every game and when he has to step in for Lopez, he deputizes well enough to keep the Nets afloat. Plumlee is far more athletic than people thought when he was drafted out of Duke.

    He’s a good rebounder and a good defender and he’s all hustle. He has a lot of work to do on his game but that will come with time and practice. Between Plumlee and the two European snipers Mirza and Bogdonovic, the Nets squad as a whole is very good offensively and defensively. And the man leading the team from the sideline is exactly what this Nets team needed all along.

     

    Finally, GM Billy King Made The Right Hire…

     

    Last summer when Billy King and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov went for the splashy hire and unveiled Jason Kidd as their coach, I thought they made a huge mistake. Hiring a rookie coach to get the best out of this collective talent was not a good choice. And after a season that ended at the hands of eventual NBA Final representative Miami Heat, Kidd made a power play that failed monumentally.

    Kidd has since moved on to coach the Milwaukee Bucks (Thank God) and in his place the Nets made the hire they should have made last summer, Lionel Hollins. How no one picked up Lionel Hollins before this summer has puzzled me for over a year since his dismissal in Memphis with the Grizzlies. Hollins took the Grizz to a Western Conference Finals and apparently the new management in Memphis felt they needed to go in a new direction.

    Well their loss is definitely the Nets gain. It’s no coincidence this team is already off to a flying start. Hollins came in demanding that his players perform up to their abilities.

    He got a far healthier Deron Williams to work with, and told Deron from day one this is a new regime. Hollins is not a coach that will be walked all over and commands respect, and the players have responded like professionals. Unlike his predecessor, Hollins understands how an offense should be run and it’s showing on the court.

    When Williams or Jarrett Jack are on the floor it doesn’t look as if both players are on the playground just doing what they please. Players know their roles, and with Hollins coaching there has been great ball movement and a three-point shooter is always open. This is who the Nets needed. A battle hardened veteran head coach. And now they have him.

    It’s still early in the season but there is a lot to be optimistic about in Brooklyn. Barring significant injury, this team can grow to be far better than last season’s team, and everyone involved is happy about it. Let’s go Nets.

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