Can Lionel Hollins Be Steadying Force Brooklyn Nets Desperately Need?

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Can Lionel Hollins Be Steadying Force Brooklyn Nets Desperately Need?
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This time around, the Brooklyn Nets got their guy.

The right guy.

The team announced on Wednesday that Lionel Hollins and the Nets have officially reached an agreement that will make him Brooklyn's new head coach:

Marc Stein of ESPN.com revealed the potential parameters of Hollins' deal before it was formally completed:

The hire comes on the same day former Nets coach Jason Kidd was introduced as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, a move that was preceded by a surprising breakup with Brooklyn.

Quick action was inevitable for the Nets. They can now focus on moving forward with the coach they have, shoring up a roster that created some noise in the Eastern Conference last season, while hoping things are looking up once again.

 

Coaching Boom

Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Hiring Hollins is nothing short of a major splash as far as these things go. He was the biggest name available in the coaching pool and brings a credential-crammed reputation with him to Brooklyn.

Most recently, he served as head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies through 2012-13. During his time at the helm, the Grizzlies became a defensive powerhouse that gritted through injuries and pedestrian offensive schemes to ground out victories.

His penchant for instilling defensive purpose alone makes him a good fit for the Nets.

NBA.com indicates they ranked 19th in defensive efficiency last season. Though they improved their standing following the New Year, the Nets still only had the league's 12th-best defense through season's end.

Memphis turned things around quickly on that end with Hollins. Look at how drastically the Grizzlies improved during his last four years:

Memphis' Defensive Evolution Under Hollins
Season Defensive Rank
2009-10 19
2010-11 9
2011-12 7
2012-13 2

Basketball-Reference.com

While not always pretty, his coaching style yields results. The Grizzlies paced their way to a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2013.

Using the defensive foundation Hollins laid, now-head coach Dave Joerger piloted the team to within a few injuries and a Zach Randolph suspension of upsetting the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of this year's playoffs.

That defense-first style is going to resonate with the veteran-packed Nets—assuming everyone of note sticks around.

Which they should.

Especially now.

 

Restoring Order

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Shaun Livingston has already signed with the Golden State Warriors. Meanwhile, Andray Blatche is as good as gone.

However, the Nets still have some incumbent targets they need to zero in on: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Following Kidd's messy departure, Stein reports Pierce has generated a lot of outside interest:

Heightened competition puts the Nets in a difficult situation. They still need Pierce. They need whatever is left of his offensive sagacity. They need his fire, his leadership.

They need him if they want to keep Garnett, like Grantland's Zach Lowe explains:

They will have to negotiate free agency from a tricky spot. Kidd’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, the orchestrator of Kidd’s hiring as head coach in the first place, also represents Paul Pierce — a key free agent who has value around the league. Kevin Garnett probably wants his last big NBA paycheck, but if Pierce leaves, who knows if Garnett may retire and forgo the last year of his contract.

Without Pierce and Garnett, the Nets have no hope of contending for a title next season. It's as simple as that. If Pierce leaves, Garnett could follow suit by way of retiring or trying to force a trade.

The Nets, meanwhile, would be left to soldier on with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez—a riveting trio on paper, yet one that isn't winning any titles. Ergo, the Nets face real risks as they kick off the post-Kidd era.

Hollins can help turn their offseason perils into certainties and victories. David Aldridge of NBA.com suggests he's already thinking of ways to revamp their system:

Paced, calculated basketball should appeal to veterans like Pierce and Garnett, and even the injury-prone Williams. Hollins is also familiar with incorporating two bigs into his offensive schemes.

He's by no means a scoreboard-razing virtuoso, but the Grizzlies ran high-low action between Marc Gasol and Randolph to perfection while he was in Memphis.

Bringing him in restores order, if it was even lost. Players aren't looking at a novice with no experience or a contentious figure who will recurrently clash with those he's supposed to be mentoring and coaching.

Pierce, Garnett, Williams and everyone else who could be on the roster are looking at Hollins—a proven skipper who forged bonds with players in Memphis and can help the Nets pick right back up where they left off without missing any beats or, more importantly, postseason runs.

 

The Better Fit

This is whom the Nets need right now.

Long-term, this move may even be an upgrade, saving the Nets from any potential power grabs they would be forced to withstand from someone else.

Did Hollins clash with the Grizzlies' front office near the end of his tenure? Most definitely. But according to Wojnarowski, Hollins and management butted heads over issues like analytics. He wasn't trying to abuse his power or gain control over those above him.

Memphis was just a bad fit.

Is Hollins the right fit for the Nets?

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Brooklyn isn't.

The Nets are prepared to spend. They're dwelling in a bigger market with more resources. Just by hiring him, they are willing to back his methods in ways the Grizzlies apparently weren't.

"I'm in a great city for winning, for generating revenue," Hollins told Aldridge. "And I'm very grateful to God."

And the Nets should be grateful they landed him.

They're fresh out of a shocking ordeal and need someone with firm, steady hands who can keep their ambitions alive and minimize collateral damage.

Hollins, more so than anyone else they could have hired, is that someone.

 

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