Lionel Hollins Wants Brook Lopez (Primarily) In The Paint
Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez was leading his team in scoring with a career-best 20.7 point average before suffering a season-ending right foot injury in December. The Nets’ identity had to change in Lopez’s absence, mainly by employing smaller, longer line ups with Kevin Garnett playing more at the five and Paul Pierce at the four.
With Lopez cleared for action and training camp underway, new Brooklyn head coach Lionel Hollins spoke on his expectations for his big man after the Nets’ practice on Sunday, via Tim Bonkemps of the New York Post:
Just being more aggressive, being tougher, rebounding better … just being a force in the paint. When you’re 7-foot, 260, I’d like for him to be a force, but I would like all of our big guys to play tougher, more aggressive.
Be an inside player. If you’re an inside player, a big guy, patrol the paint, and play outside last. Don’t play outside and never get to the paint.
Lopez displays one of the more polished offensive skill sets at his position in the league. He has an excellent shooting touch which allows him to veer away from the paint and open up his floor game. Hollins needs that versatility but is also focused on making sure Lopez is tough-minded and aggressive on the block,
Making Brook a better basketball player is a priority. Being tougher, being more aggressive, thinking that every time the play is for him, but also being a guy that’s passing the ball to his open teammates.
Nets point guard Deron Williams on Lopez:
I think Brook has to learn to use his strength, his size, to his advantage. I don’t think he’s saying to Brook, ‘Don’t ever shoot a jumper,’ because that would take away something Brook is really good at.
But I think [Hollins] wants Brook to establish himself as a low-post presence, and we as a team kind of need that. It’s something we missed last year, and it kind of forced Joe to take on that role.
Another identity calibration for Brooklyn is likely heading towards playing through Lopez on the offensive end, much like they did before he was injured. Under new leadership and with a slightly different roster look from last season, we’ll have to wait and see what kind of presence the Nets can impose on the suddenly stout Eastern Conference.