Lionel Hollins has done a magnificent job turning the Memphis Grizzlies into potential Western Conference champions in 2013. Notably, he’s transformed Zach Randolph from a black hole offensively to an efficient, focused scorer who doesn’t back down defensively; and changed Mike Conley from a contract punchline into a solid playoff point guard.
So it makes sense that the Brooklyn Nets are rumored to be interested in Hollins, who will be out of a contract whenever his season ends. What doesn’t make sense is that the Brooklyn Nets have also placed calls to Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers.
Stephen A. Smith said Nets GM Billy King would scour the ends of the earth looking for a coach; insinuating that it didn’t really matter the likelihood of success – he’s just doing his due diligence.
That’s good, because the chance of snagging any of those coaches is close to zero, and Phil Jackson already turned down the job.
I’m not sure I’m buying the due diligence, however. Since the Nets moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn, they’ve changed their attitude to try and fit New York while also trying to swagger-jack the Knicks’ style. They even brought in a former Knicks fan, Jay-Z, just to get them into the state.
Of course, Jay just bounced. Perhaps he figured out that modeling a franchise after the New York Knicks was a one-title-in-40-years disaster waiting to happen.
The Nets went for the high paid pseudo-stars to steal some of the shine from Madison Square Garden. They acquired Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson, while everyone else was wondering if Deron was a coach-killer, if Wallace could stay healthy and how Johnson could possibly be in the top five highest-paid players in the NBA. They’re one Monta Ellis-signing away from luring Isiah Thomas back to the league.
Though they’ve already proven to be more successful than the Knicks in the last decade by making the playoffs, the Nets haven’t learned their lessons, either. Championship teams are rarely created when teams match scorers together. J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony and the current squad of Knicks are discovering that the hard way (again). Deron Williams & Co. have the same ceiling, and are now stuck with it until some of these contracts clear the books in 2016.
Lionel Hollins might answer the phone as a courtesy to Billy King, but he’s not leaving his tough, smart, defense-minded team heading to the Western Conference Finals after this season. Why would he want to leave his own reclamation project for Brooklyn when Memphis is just hitting their stride?
He won’t. He will stick with what he built. He will stick with the team whose core has been together since 2009; the team that knows where each other will be offensively and defensively. He will stick with the finely tuned machine, not the new engine with parts thrown together from different garages.
That’s the lesson the Nets – and Knicks – need to learn if they want to win more than just regular season games.
Until then, Billy King is going to rack up a large phone bill.