Biggest Challenges and Hurdles for New Brooklyn Nets Coach Lionel Hollins

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJuly 8, 2014

Lionel Hollins speaks to the media during a news conference at the Barclays Center in New York, Monday, July 7, 2014. Hollins was introduced as the new head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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Good for Lionel Hollins. This guy deserved the next big available NBA coaching position following the admirable job he did with the Memphis Grizzlies from 2009 to 2013.

Hollins, who was recently named head coach of the Brooklyn Nets after Jason Kidd bolted for Milwaukee, inherits a team with experience, talent and a win-now mentality. 

But the Nets don't have much flexibility in terms of upgrading their roster this offseason. They didn't have a first-round pick in the draft, and according to Marc Stein of ESPN, they'll reportedly lose Shaun Livingston to the Golden State Warriors and their free-agent spending money is short.

For the most part, what you see is what you get right now with this Nets roster.

The obvious concern with this group is durability. Brook Lopez missed 65 games last year, thanks to another devastating foot injury. And whether you like it or not, Lopez is this team's centerpiece. He's the one guy who gives it a consistent mismatch when healthy.

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12: Brook Lopez #11 of the Brooklyn Nets dribbles against the Los Angeles Clippers during a game at Barclays Center on December 12, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agree
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Hollins will have to figure out a way to manage Lopez this upcoming season. Keeping your best player on a minutes restriction is far from ideal, but after foot issues limited Lopez to just five total games in 2012, and 17 in 2014, the Nets don't really have a choice.

"I think we’re going to use Brook and go along with a medical plan to come up with a plan to get him back," general manager Billy King told ESPN's Mike Mazzeo  "Any time a guy comes back from injury, you don’t just throw him out there so ‘OK, he can play 42 minutes.”

Deron Williams' health is another obvious concern. He missed 18 games last year and averaged just 32.2 minutes in the ones he played. Williams' ankles have been problematic and may have played a role in what was his least productive season since his rookie campaign. 

MIAMI, FL - MAY 6: Deron Williams #8 of the Brooklyn Nets shoots against the Miami Heat in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on May 6, 2014 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressl
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And the Nets just can't afford to lose the battle at the point, especially with owner Mikhail Prokhorov pouring in roughly $20 million a year to the position. If opposing teams neutralize Williams, it puts more pressure on guys like Lopez and Joe Johnson, giving them a smaller margin for error. 

But Hollins' real challenge this year will ultimately be generating and maintaining rhythm and chemistry with a physically unstable team. It's tough to start flowing as a unit when the top guns are constantly in and out of the lineup and practice. 

Offensively, he has to get the Nets to find that offensive balance, where Lopez is getting high-percentage looks in the post and Johnson and Paul Pierce (if Pierce returns in free agency) are getting the ball in space. 

Brooklyn has legitimate scoring options at multiple spots on the floor, only it ranked No. 14 in offensive efficiency last season—not good enough for a team with championship aspirations and defensive limitations. 

The Nets also have some nice role players that make up their supporting cast. The key for Hollins is putting them in position to play to their strengths. You want Marcus Thornton finishing plays as a shooter and driver, as opposed to creating them off the dribble, where his shot selection could be reckless. You want Mason Plumlee focusing on cleaning the glass and finishing around the rim—not going to work one-on-one in the post, where he lacks polish as a scorer. 

Hollins will eventually have to assign roles and get each guy to buy into them.

Not only that, but he'll have to quickly earn the respect of his team's veteran leaders—Pierce and Kevin Garnett—neither of whom are certain to return.

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He needs to develop a rapport with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Kidd had the respect of the two former Celtics from his playing days, and that relationship and mutual admiration helped persuade the two to accept a trade to Brooklyn last summer. 

With Pierce on the open market and Garnett still a potential retiree, Hollins must make inroads fast.

Defensively, he's going to have to find a way to hide this team's lack of quickness and athleticism. Hollins did a terrific job with that Grizzlies bunch, but this Brooklyn crew is older, slower and less physical. 

He'll have his hands full in his first year coaching the Nets. Luckily for Hollins, Brooklyn plays in the eastern conference, where everyone is a playoff contender. 

But if Hollins wants to get the Nets out of the postseason's second round, he's really going to have to find a way to maximize the talent on this roster. Hopefully, basketball's injury gods will lay off and give him the chance.