Lionel Hollins wants Brook Lopez to toughen up, get in the paint

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Lionel Hollins, you can join the line.

Pretty much every coach Brook Lopez has had at the NBA level wanted Brook Lopez to play tougher, to be more aggressive — get in the paint more and while you’re there crash the boards. Each year it seems Lopez gravitated more toward the perimeter.

Lionel Hollins was an upgrade on the bench for the Nets over Jason Kidd (who moved on to the Bucks) but can he make a difference here? Hollins told the New York Daily News he hopes to see a tougher Lopez this season (hat tip to Eye on Basketball).

“Just being more aggressive, being tougher, rebounding better. Just being a force in the paint,” Hollins said when asked how he wants his 26-year-old center to improve. “When you’re 7-feet and 260 pounds, I’d like for him to be a force. I want all our big guys to be like that — be tougher, be more aggressive, be an inside player. If you’re an inside player, a big guy, control the paint and play outside last.

“Don’t play outside and never get in the paint.”

Of course, one the strengths of Lopez’s game is he can play outside and you have to cover him — he shot 48.4 percent from 10-16 feet out last season and 55.3 percent from 16 feet out to the arc. He doesn’t take a ton of those shots, but you have to respect him and that can help space the floor or be handy in a pick-and-pop. His versatility on offense is part of what makes him arguably the best offensive center in the NBA.

Still, Lopez has frustrated coaches (and Nets fans) because he’ll settle for that jumper rather than work for position closer to the basket.

Hollins has the gravitas to ask and push for that, he’s not going to get a Marc Gasol clone but he might get more inside play. Maybe. It’s just hard to see him having much success where plenty of other good coaches have not been able to change those habits.