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Nets finally buying into Lionel Hollins' team concept

Nets head coach Lionel Hollins talks to reporters

Nets head coach Lionel Hollins talks to reporters during media day at the team's practice center in East Rutherford, N.J. on Friday, Sept. 26, 2014. Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

MIAMI - Lionel Hollins' style and mental makeup was developed in another era, back when there wasn't so much individual glorification, and status was earned rather than assumed.

Before the mega-contracts and the words "maximum player" were etched into the NBA lexicon. Preceding the trend that demands immediate results, or heads quickly roll.

It's created a fascinating juxtaposition for him in his first season with the Nets, who have found their stride, winning six of their last seven games. Hollins is dealing with a core collection of players who have had a taste of what it's like to be the man. Now the trick is to get all those egos to buy into coming together for the greater good.

"Well, the first thing is earning respect," Hollins said Saturday after practice in preparation for Sunday night's game against the Heat. "And this team has been a challenge because there's a lot of veteran guys, guys that have been in the league a long time that have had success. And my challenge was to sell them on the team success, and I feel good about where we are. Guys are buying into it and finding their roles. I mean, that's equally important because everybody is important."

Hollins has wasted little time leaving his imprint on the Nets and abiding by that team-first philosophy, making some tough choices. At times he's opted to go against the grain, doing what he believes will put the Nets in position to thrive.

Some examples: benching Mason Plumlee because of overall ineffectiveness earlier in the season. Inserting seldom-used Sergey Karasev into the starting lineup for a struggling Bojan Bogdanovic. Bringing Deron Williams and Brook Lopez off the bench. Eliminating Bogdanovic from the rotation altogether.

Hollins made those moves, which have paid off nicely, with one thing in mind: the 'T' word. He didn't care what anyone else thought.

"I've been a part of a lot of winning teams, a lot of great teams," said Hollins, who played in the league for 10 seasons. "In the pros, I was on three NBA Finals teams. I was on another two or three semifinals and conference [finals] teams. Even just playing other sports, it's always been about the team. Every coach I've played for, all the way back to biddy ball, it's always about the team, and nobody was bigger than the team, and everybody had equal responsibilities for the team's success regardless of what the roles were.

"It's just something that being with winning I understood most of my career."

His old-school 61-year-old mind-set was crafted and molded from a time when the draft was a whopping 10 rounds and where you were drafted, it didn't give you carte blanche to start or even ultimately make the most money," as Hollins put it. He's not too keen on how salaries affect the league's landscape and believe some people mistakenly equate paychecks with guaranteed production.

"My feeling about contracts is that everybody is overpaid or underpaid," Hollins said, "because it's about how much leverage you have. And some guys have leverage and get contracts, but are they worth it? Probably not. But they are in position where the teams have to pay it and they get paid. There's other guys that are really good that don't have that same kind of leverage, so they don't get paid the same kind of money. But it doesn't mean that they are not a high-level player.

"I hear on TV all the time, 'Oh, he's the go-to guy because he's the max player.' That doesn't have anything to do with it. We'd like it to be that way, but it really isn't. It's the hype from the media. It's the hype from the individual family and friends, financial people. Everybody is about how can we maximize 'this guy.' It's not, 'How can we get this guy to fit in and maximize the team.' "

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