Things are not great between Nets head coach Lionel Hollins and the team’s starting big man Brook Lopez, and they haven’t been for some time.
Hollins has been demanding of his center in the season’s early stages, and has been riding him pretty hard to get the desired results.
Lopez has been visibly frustrated recently, but that didn’t stop Hollins from continuing to pile on the criticism after Brooklyn’s weekend loss to the Spurs.
“[He’s] the same Brook. He can score,’’ Hollins said Monday, before adding, “He needs to be better defensively, he needs to be better rebounding, he needs to be better passing the ball to his teammates.’’ …
“If you saw, if you had been able to see practice today, you would’ve seen some really nice passes. It’s just being aware and trusting that your teammates are going to make plays, and understanding the game better,’’ said Hollins, who insists it’s not impossible for Lopez to make those improvements.
“There’s people that come into this league and their whole life they’re only asked to do one thing. And when you get to this level it takes a little more to win. I’m trying to ask him to do those things.’’
Lopez was playing at an All-Star level last year, and averaged 20.7 points on better than 56 percent shooting before a foot fracture suffered in December prematurely ended his season.
This year, Lopez has struggled to get crunch time minutes due to his lack of consistency on the defensive end of the floor; he was benched for the entire fourth quarter in San Antonio, and has been pulled after limited fourth-quarter minutes in at least three other contest.
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders wonders if a trade of Lopez may be looming on the horizon.
Lopez has the option to be a free agent in July, as the final year of his contract is a $16.7 million player option. That, combined with Hollins’ lack of faith in his big man late in games, has led many to wonder if Lopez could be traded this season before he has the option to walk away in July.
League sources say the Nets are exploring options on deals, but most of them involve disgruntled forward Andrei Kirilenko, and the idea of moving Lopez hasn’t been broached in a serious way, but it is the 800 pound elephant in the room.
The Nets are off to a 5-8 start, and Hollins knows he needs more out of Lopez for the team to get over the .500 mark and truly challenge for a playoff spot. The trade value of Lopez isn’t exactly at an all-time high right now, so a deal in the immediate future seems unlikely. But it is something to watch as the season progresses, especially if Hollins continues to go down this road of using public criticism as a primary motivational tactic.