EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Nets coach Lionel Hollins is cautious when he talks about the recent development of Mason Plumlee, refusing to lend credence to the idea that his second-year center has arrived where he needs to be. In fact, there are times he barely wants to acknowledge that Plumlee has gotten better.
Hollins scoffed at practice Monday when asked about Plumlee's improvements, saying, "Who said he was able to pick things up?" and adding that the second-year player is "scratching the surface . . . but he's got to be to the point where his success equals winning; that's when you're really a success."
On Tuesday, as a prelude to the Nets' West Coast trip, he qualified his thoughts further. Plumlee, he said, has helped the Nets win. But he has the potential to do even more.
"He has a lot of flaws left," Hollins said in his typically frank manner. "And you can talk about what they are, but [it's] everything."
But? "He's done a better job of staying in his lane and playing to his strengths," Hollins said. "You don't see him out on the perimeter anymore. You see him around the basket."
"He's getting rebounds, which early on he never got any rebounds . . . [He's made] a conscious decision to try and be better."
Despite the Nets' recent swoon, Plumlee more or less has been a positive, and his continued improvement is important if the team is to make anything out of the second half of the season. He leads the Nets with 287 total rebounds -- 100 offensive -- and he's recorded double-doubles in four of the last seven games. The big man can dunk, too -- he put on a show in practice Monday when he jammed over 7-foot Jerome Jordan. Plumlee is sixth in the league with 77 dunks.
"[Jordan] said you can't dunk over me," Plumlee said about the practice dunk. "Tiny, the guy that helps us out, I said if I dunk over Tiny, you got to let me dunk over you . . . [Tiny is] probably 6-7."
Plumlee said that he and Hollins "haven't really talked overall" on how he needs to improve but said he knows that to be a bigger factor, he will need to be more aggressive inside, rebound more, play better defense and avoid foul trouble. So as Hollins said, pretty much everything.
For all of Hollins' reservations, though, he did throw some mild praise over to Plumlee. "Mase," he said, "is coming along."
Not a moment too soon, either. With a three-game West Coast trip looming, the Nets (17-24) have no room for error.
"It's big," he said of the next three games. "Playing well is not enough anymore. We need to go out and get wins."
Notes & quotes: The Nets announced that Deron Williams (sprained rib) will not play in Wednesday night's game against Sacramento. Williams ran on the treadmill in practice Tuesday . . . Brook Lopez, the subject of trade rumors, said he's not distracted and doesn't know about most of them, since he stays off social media and doesn't read news reports. "I live at home with my brother and my cat," he said, "so I don't really go out of my way to put myself in a position to see that stuff."