Lionel Hollins

Atlantic Notes: Zeller, Jackson, Biyombo

Mike Conley, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, was disappointed that the Nets fired Lionel Hollins, who had coached Conley during his tenure with the Grizzlies, Andy Vasquez of The Record relays (via Twitter). The point guard also noted that Hollins’ presence would have been a major reason to consider signing with Brooklyn this offseason, Vasquez adds. Conley is slotted fifth in Hoops Rumors’ latest free agent power rankings. Here’s more regarding the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks’ players say they are also to blame for the team’s woes, not just former coach Derek Fisher, Neil Best of Newsday writes. “I think sometimes coaches get blamed, but it’s just about everybody,” said point guard Jose Calderon. “He was the guy let go but at the end of the day we are all together, from the top to the bottom of the staff, players, everybody. It’s tough to see him go like that because maybe we weren’t winning games lately, but it’s tough to see somebody go like that. It’s on us to turn this around or not and we’ve been saying that for a couple of weeks now.”
  • Celtics big man Tyler Zeller has become a valuable contributor recently after playing sparingly the past few weeks, Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com notes. “A true pro, a guy who’s been on the bad end of the stick and hasn’t really played that much,” Thomas said of Zeller. “Every time his name is called he’s ready, and that’s the definition of a true professional right there. He puts the work in each and every day, and he’s a great teammate.” Boston reportedly contacted the Hawks about a potential deal for center Al Horford before Zeller’s recent success.
  • Knicks team president Phil Jackson has an opt out clause in his contract that he can exercise after the 2016/17 season, Chris Broussard of ESPN.com notes (Twitter link). A “strong belief” persists that Jackson will wind up back with the Lakers organization and fiancee Jeanie Buss in the future, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
  • Bismack Biyombo has been a solid addition to the Raptors this season and he is providing better value than Amir Johnson, who departed as a free agent this past offseason, is for the Celtics, Ben Golliver of SI.com opines. Johnson is earning $12MM this season in Boston while Biyombo is due $2.814MM from the Raptors.
  • Well before the arrival of Kristaps Porzingis, Italian big man Danilo Gallinari was considered the future of the Knicks franchise, but the team instead dealt him as part of a package to acquire Carmelo Anthony. The combo forward says he still has fond memories of his time in New York despite the team trading him away, George Willis of The New York Post writes. “It was tough for me because I got injured right away and had back surgery,” Gallinari said. “But it’s great when you’re a young player and you have the chance to play in a city like New York. My first two years were very intense and the third year we started winning and when you’re winning, New York is a lot of fun.” The Celtics are reportedly interested in acquiring Gallinari, but the Nuggets have rebuffed them so far.

Atlantic Notes: DeRozan, Saric, Williams

DeMar DeRozan has been trying to silence his doubters since entering the NBA as the No. 9 overall pick in 2009, and the Raptors shooting guard readily admits to being motivated by any negativity he comes across, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca writes. “Man, there’s been so much stuff, honestly,” DeRozan told Lewenberg. “I could write a book [with] how much stuff was said. ‘He’ll just be an average player, he’ll never…’. There’s so many things you could start [with]. It’s crazy. But you can’t look at it and get sad or cry about it, you’ve got to use that as motivation. At the end of the day, the same people who probably said this, or whatever it was, you feel better knowing they’re eating their words. And that’s what it’s all about. You can’t get mad. I understand. I take all that frustration out when I’m working out in the summer, try to come back and prove everybody wrong.” DeRozan was recently added to the Eastern Conference’s 2016 NBA All-Star squad as a reserve.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • In his latest mailbag, Philadelphia magazine’s Derek Bodner opines that Sixers draft-and-stash prospect Dario Saric should make an immediate impact on the court if he indeed joins the NBA next season. Bodner pegs Saric’s role as the team’s sixth man and his creativity on offense is something the roster sorely needs. Saric has indicated that he intends to join Philadelphia for the 2016/17 campaign.
  • Former Nets point guard Deron Williams is surprised at how quickly things turned south for the franchise after his departure, Andy Vasquez of The Record relays. “I figured they’d be a lot better,” Williams said regarding the Nets. “But I know they’ve struggled with some injuries and things like that that have definitely hurt them, and the coaching change and [former GM] Billy [King] getting let go, so there’s a lot of things going on over there right now.
  • Williams also noted that he didn’t expect the Nets would fire coach Lionel Hollins when they did, Vasquez adds. “I was a little surprised,” Williams said, “because Lionel’s only been there a year and a half. I thought he’d get a little bit more of a chance, but that’s the nature of this business. You see how things are going around the league, not just there. You look at — David Blatt got fired and he was supposed to be coaching the All-Star game, so it’s just the nature of this business.”

Atlantic Notes: DeRozan, Hollins, Mills, ‘Melo

DeMar DeRozan has made no secret of his affection for Toronto, and he tells Michael Lee of The Washington Post that just because the Raptors have a history of star players leaving doesn’t mean he’ll follow suit. DeRozan is poised to turn down his player option worth only slightly more than $10MM and hit free agency this summer.

“One thing I never did was look at anybody else, what they did or what they followed, honestly,” DeRozan said to Lee. “I always stuck to what I believe in and what I’m comfortable with. If I see a hundred people walking left, that don’t necessarily mean I’m going to walk left. I may see this clear path and want to stay right.”

See more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets higher-ups were angry about the way former coach Lionel Hollins would pin blame on his players, sources tell Brian Lewis of the New York Post, and several sources who spoke with Andy Vasquez of The Record couldn’t identify a single player on the team who was fond of Hollins. Many players thought the coach talked down to them and found it hard to respect him because of that, Vasquez writes.
  • Knicks GM Steve Mills is very much involved with player personnel in his role under team president Phil Jackson, as agents tell Sean Deveney of The Sporting News that Mills is the go-to guy when they talk to someone from the Knicks. James Dolan has done little meddling with Jackson around, and the team hasn’t had substantive talks regarding a Carmelo Anthony trade this year, Deveney adds.
  • Nerlens Noel has long been a fan of Ish Smith, but the point guard has helped Jahlil Okafor‘s offensive game, too, observes Keith Bodner of Philadelphia magazine. The No. 3 overall pick has put up impressive numbers, albeit in a small sample size, since the Sixers traded for Smith on December 24th, as Bodner examines.

Eastern Notes: Brown, James, Pistons

Nets forward Thaddeus Young pulled no punches when discussing the difference in playing for interim coach Tony Brown versus former coach Lionel Hollins, who was fired on Sunday, Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily relays (via Twitter). When asked his feelings about suiting up for Brown, Young said, “When your coach is not panicking and he’s staying positive and he’s continued to motivate us, it’s huge for us as far as an energy standpoint. It makes us continue to want to go out there and continue to play, and it doesn’t keep us thinking about what happened before as much. But Tony’s mentality is, forget what happened before this and let’s try to push and try to win this game. That’s huge for us as a team. It says a lot that he believes in us, that he wants us to compete.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Cavs shooting guard J.R. Smith notes that the team’s excellent work ethic comes from following the example set by LeBron James, whose dedication has rubbed off on his teammates, as Marc Narducci of HoopsHype relays. When asked what it has been like to play alongside James, Smith told Narducci, “For one, he elevates everybody’s game and holds everybody to a higher standard. He makes you hold yourself to a higher standard. This is the first team I have been on where everybody stays after practice to work on their game. Everybody wants to be better every single day and a lot of that has to do with him. He is a credit to that. He holds himself to a high standard. We see how hard he works each and every day. If your best player is working twice as hard as the next person, it gives you enthusiasm and drive to work harder.”
  • Pistons coach/executive Stan Van Gundy is using the Spurs’ track record of consistency as an organization as a model for how he wants to build Detroit’s roster, John Niyo of The Detroit News writes. “I do think, looking forward, one of things we’ve talked about in trying to build this team is we have a chance for continuity,” Van Gundy said. “And I think you see it when you see a team like San Antonio, that over time it allows you to build on what you’re doing.”

Nets Notes: Johnson, Prokhorov, Calipari, Bargnani

Joe Johnson didn’t know about the Nets’ firing of Lionel Hollins until he found out about it on TV, Johnson said today to reporters, including Andy Vasquez of The Record (Twitter link). Still, no indications existed as of late Sunday that the former All-Star has any interest in a buyout from the team, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Owner Mikhail Prokhorov said today that he began to consider the firing of Hollins and reassignment of GM Billy King a month and a half ago, notes Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com, and Prokhorov added that when he finally made the call, it was a “very easy” decision, notes Andrew Keh of The New York Times. See more on the changes in Brooklyn:

  • Prokhorov, who pledged a more active role with the Nets, said he plans to meet with every candidate for the team’s vacancies, as Brian Fleurantin of NetsDaily relays in within a transcript of the owner’s press conference today.
  • The owner also reiterated that he has no plans to sell the team, cited a desire for chemistry between the next GM and coach, and said, curiously, that, “I’m sure for the next season, we’ll be, I hope, [a] championship contender,” Fleurantin notes.
  • Nets CEO Brett Yormark told WFAN radio today that he hasn’t spoken with John Calipari about rejoining the team “yet,” observes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). Yormark has reportedly wanted to make a strong pitch to Calipari, though the CEO is apparently not heavily involved in the team’s search.
  • Italian team Olimpia Milano plans a run at Andrea Bargnani, a native of Italy, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). Milano would love to somehow acquire him by January 28th, when the Eurocup’s transfer window closes, but that’s highly unlikely, and a move during the summer, when Bargnani can opt out of his contract with the Nets, is more realistic, Carchia notes.

New York Notes: King, Westphal, Murry

Former Nets GM Billy King was reassigned today and part of his new role will include advising ownership in the search for his own successor, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports. The situation is quite odd, considering King was pushed out of the job by owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Wojnarowski writes. It’s not unusual for an exiting executive to help in the search for a replacement, however. As Wojnarowski points out, former Nets GM Rod Thorn had played a part in hiring King upon Thorn’s departure from the Nets in 2010, but the difference in that example is that Thorn had resigned from his position and was not forced out, Wojnarowski adds.

Here’s more news from a busy day out of the Big Apple:

  • Respected and longtime coach Paul Westphal will no longer serve as an assistant coach for the Nets in the wake of Lionel Hollinsfiring earlier today, Westphal’s wife, Cindy, writes on Facebook (h/t Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily). After parts of 10 seasons as a head coach, Westphal had no desire to coach again until Hollins approached him to be his top guy with the Nets, Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com wrote in 2014. Westphal’s loyalty to Hollins was too strong to allow him to stay with Brooklyn, Puccio writes.
  • The Knicks, who have reportedly been shopping for backcourt help, scouted shooting guard Toure’ Murry at the D-League Showcase event in Santa Cruz, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News tweets. Of course, it’s important to note that nearly every team is scouting someone at the event and that does not necessarily mean a deal is imminent, as Chris Reichert of Upside & Motor tweets. Murry is averaging 14.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game with the Texas Legends, the Mavs’ D-League affiliate. Murry, whom the Jazz mulled signing in December, played in 51 games with the Knicks in 2013/14, his rookie season.
  • It likely doesn’t matter whom the Nets hire as their next head coach because the organization is still paying for mistakes made in the early days of moving to Brooklyn, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post opines. The Nets’ history of acquiring flashy names such as Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson has had long-term consequences, Bontemps adds. There is no one in the organization that is capable of stepping into the general manager’s job at the moment, according to Bontemps.

Reactions To Nets Shakeup

Former Nets coach Lionel Hollins told Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com (ESPN Now link) that he received a call from former GM Billy King, who was reassigned today, telling him that he had been let go, but expressed gratitude nonetheless. Hollins, as Mazzeo points out, still has one and a half years left on his contract.

“I’m thankful to Billy and Mikhail [Prokhorov] and Dmitry [Razumov] for the opportunity to have coached the Nets,” Hollins told Mazzeo. “I’m disappointed to where it didn’t work out to where we didn’t have playoff success and fans weren’t celebrating in the streets of Brooklyn.”

Here is more news and reactions to Brooklyn’s decision to fire Hollins and reassign King:

  • Nets assistant GM Frank Zanin will be retained, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reports (on Twitter). Zanin has been involved with most of the day-to-day team business, including trade talks, according to Mannix.
  • Still, it’s unclear who would be answering the phones if a team called regarding trade talk, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post hears after speaking with multiple sources (Twitter link).
  • While the timing of the moves was surprising to some, considering how close the trade deadline is, some executives around the league were always surprised King was able to keep his job with Brooklyn for as long as he did, Ian Begley of ESPN.com passes along (on Twitter).
  • Nets CEO Brett Yormark, who is reportedly enamored with John Calipari, is someone who is having his voice heard more now within the organization, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News tweets.
  • Tom Thibodeau would be an ideal fit as the next coach for the Nets because of his ability to maximize players’ talents on defense, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News writes in a list of top candidates to replace Hollins. Thibodeau is seen as a logical choice for other potential openings and will come at a hefty price, Deveney adds. Among other names Deveney mentions as top candidates are: Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy and Patrick Ewing.
  • Prokhorov did not like Hollins’ public criticism of players, NetsDaily tweets.
  • Former Hawks GM Danny Ferry, who interviewed with the Nets before the job went to King, is still unemployed and has some baggage, but it’s worth noting his father, Bob, is a Nets scout, Bondy tweets.

Nets Fire Lionel Hollins, Reassign Billy King

Kelley L Cox / USA Today Sports Images

Kelley L Cox / USA Today Sports Images

The Nets have fired coach Lionel Hollins and reassigned GM Billy King to another job in the organization, the team announced today. Assistant Tony Brown has been named interim head coach, while the GM position will remain open for now.

“After careful consideration, I’ve concluded that it’s time for a fresh start and a new vision for the direction of the team,” Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov said. “By making this decision now, it enables our organization to use the rest of the season to diligently evaluate candidates with proven track records. It’s clear from our current state of affairs that we need new leadership. With the right basketball management and coach in place, we are going to create a winning culture and identity and give Brooklyn a team that it can be proud of and enjoy watching. We have learned a great deal during the past six years and our experiences will guide us for the future. Following the consolidation of team ownership last month, I can assure you that I’m more determined and committed than ever to build a winner.”

Hollins spent a year and a half as Brooklyn’s coach, compiling a 48-71 record. The Nets currently have the third-worst record in the league at 10-27. King was in his sixth season as GM after being named to the position in July of 2010. There are no immediate plans to fill the GM role, posts Mike Mazzeo of ESPN. While King has been officially “reassigned,” he won’t be making basketball decisions going forward, writes Andy Vasquez of NorthJersey.com. With about six week left before the trade deadline, it’s unclear who will be responsible for those decisions, Vasquez tweets.

“I want to thank Billy for his hard work in the development of the Nets,” Prokhorov said. “At every step of the way, he has been aggressive in his quest to build a winning team and has been a key factor toward the Nets making the playoffs for each of the last three seasons.  Beyond this, he has been a tremendous friend, wonderful colleague, and loyal partner and we wish him success in the future.  I also want to thank Lionel for his efforts and dedication on behalf of the Nets franchise. To our fans, I thank you for your continued enthusiasm and support and please know that brighter days are ahead.  I’m excited to begin the process of choosing the best GM and head coach available.”

The moves expose chaos within the Nets, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. He says nearly everyone in the organization learned of the actions through a news release. A team insider called the moves “face-saving,” according to a story by NetsDaily.com.

King joined the team as GM in the summer of 2010, and the team has won just a single playoff series since. His contract is set to expire at season’s end. A report, later denied, surfaced earlier this week from Europe indicating that Prokhorov wants CSKA Moscow team president Andrey Vatutin as the club’s next GM. CEO Brett Yormark is reportedly enamored with John Calipari.

The Nets hired Hollins in the summer of 2014 shortly after the departure of Jason Kidd for the Bucks. He went 48-71 with Brooklyn during the regular season over a season and a half, and the Nets fell in six games to the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs last year.

Atlantic Notes: Hollins, Stevens, Lopez

Nets coach Lionel Hollins seemingly turned a compliment Stephen Curry gave point guard Jarrett Jack into a negative, Fred Kerber of The New York Post writes. Responding to Curry’s praise of Jack’s vocal leadership when the two were teammates in Golden State, Hollins said, “Did Stephen Curry say it? When Stephen Curry speaks, everybody listens … so it must be right. I see the same thing. Here’s the deal. Too much is made of leadership. Everybody should be a leader on the court.

Leadership comes by you going out there and doing your job to the best of your ability as hard as you can consistently. You do that, people are going to follow you. Then the great players lead by their ability to score the ball, and people follow them because they know that they can help them win,” Hollins continued. “The worst kind of leadership is that ‘Rah-rah, come on, everybody.’ To me, that’s just annoying people. I think leadership is like, ‘OK, somebody’s missed two or three, don’t worry about it, I got you, I’m going to come back to you again.’

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The strong play of Knicks rookie big man Kristaps Porzingis may force coach Derek Fisher to shift center Robin Lopez to the bench, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Lopez, who has struggled this season after signing a four-year, $54MM deal this past summer, notes his slow start is due to adjusting to the triangle offense, Berman notes. “Defensively, that’s been pretty consistent,’’ Lopez said. “I’ve always been able to fall back on that. Offensively I’m trying to figure things out. How much I’m expected to score? What am I expected to do when I catch the ball in the post? Now I’m getting more comfortable, starting to realize what the role is.’’
  • Brad Stevens has molded the Celtics into one of the NBA’s toughest defensive teams despite the lack of a true rim-protector, Brett Koremenos of RealGM writes in his analysis of the team’s improvement.

Atlantic Notes: Hollins, Hinkie, Johnson

Nets GM Billy King denied a report that he’s seeking a replacement for coach Lionel Hollins, though he appeared hesitant to make any long-term promises about the coach, observes Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

“It’s funny because I think the report said it was management — and I’m management. So there was no truth to that,’’ King said to Sarah Kustok of the YES Network, as Lewis transcribes. “I’ve talked to ownership, and — right now — Lionel is our coach and we’re working to try to turn this around.”

King also told Kustok that the Nets would explore making roster moves but that the team would give the current roster a chance “until we can find another option,” notes Andy Vasquez of The Record. See more on the Nets amid the latest from the Atlantic Division:

  • Brook Lopez, who re-signed with the Nets on a three-year max deal this past summer, called for stability, as Lewis relays in his piece. “We’re working on something here and we’ve had turnover year in and year out since I’ve been here. It’s tough to find continuity if you keep changing personnel,’’ Lopez said. “We have to find something that’s working for us and continue to work with the pieces we have and improve.’’
  • Sam Hinkie is still Sixers GM, but the addition of Jerry Colangelo to the front office depletes his power to the point that it’s as if he’s not there anymore, a source told Tom Moore of Calkins Media“It’s clear [Hinkie] has, for all intents and purposes, been fired,” the source said, adding that he believes Colangelo’s son Bryan Colangelo, who was once GM of the Suns and Raptors, will be involved. League executives who spoke with Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer cast doubt on the idea that Hinkie will stay with the organization much longer.
  • Amir Johnson‘s positive personality, as well as his defensive versatility, are what make the Celtics offseason signee especially valuable, coach Brad Stevens said, as Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald relays.

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