Hollins on Lopez's future: 'I want him back'

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- They certainly have had their differences this season, but Brooklyn Nets coach Lionel Hollins was adamant that he wants center Brook Lopez back next season.

Lopez, 26, can opt out of the final year of his contract ($16.7 million in 2015-16) and become a free agent at season’s end.

“I don’t worry about whether he’s going to be a free agent, whether he’s going to be back, or anything like that,” Hollins said Monday. “Obviously, I’d like for him to be back. I hope he’s going to be back. But those decisions are not mine, and I don’t worry about it.”

Hollins then became agitated when pressed further about his say in Lopez's future.

“I just said I want him back. How many damn times do I have to say that? Damn!” Hollins said. “I want him back. I want him back. I want him back. OK, everybody got it? I want him back. I want him back. But it’s still his call.”

The coach’s point was that it’s up to the 7-footer and his agent whether to opt out. Hollins also noted that general manager Billy King and ownership are ahead of him in the personnel decision-making pecking order.

“That’s always out of my control,” Hollins said. “I can say I want him back all I want. If some team’s offered him $25 million a year -- and we say as an organization they don’t want to pay that -- that’s not my call. So I have no control of that.”

Lopez, who on Monday was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the first time in his career, reiterated that he has not given much thought to his future. He could elect for free agency this summer or wait until next season, when the NBA’s national TV deal kicks in and team salary caps could increase to $90 million.

Hollins and Lopez have clashed in practices and games, with Hollins criticizing Lopez in the media. The Nets were unsuccessful in their quest to try and trade the veteran big man, who has recently emerged as far-and-away the team’s most potent offensive player.

In the past week Lopez is averaging 28.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while leading the Nets (32-40) to a 3-1 record. Brooklyn is now in the eighth and final playoff spot in the East after winning a season-high three straight games and seven of its past nine.

Lopez, who was coming off offseason foot and ankle surgery, got off to a slow start. He then dealt with injury and was brought back slowly off the bench. He seemed uncomfortable in the team’s new system. Hollins said a talk with Lopez prior to the team’s Dec. 2 game against the New York Knicks changed things.

“For me, I understood that he wasn’t going to be a dominant post-up player, and that we had to play differently with him to be effective,” Hollins said. “I just told him, ‘I’m not going to try to make you somebody you’re not, just be who you are.’”

Trade-deadline acquisition Thaddeus Young, who is averaging 13.6 points and 5.1 rebounds a game with the Nets, has also helped ease Lopez's burden.

“I think it’s the way we’re running offense, and he’s around the basket a lot more,” Hollins said. “He’s not taking as many jump shots as he used to, and either we’re running a power forward in the pick-and-roll and he’s down low -- we’re not spreading him out anymore -- and when he’s in the pick-and-roll, he’s in the paint. So if somebody else shoots, he’s more near the glass -- and that’s key to getting offensive rebounds, being around the glass.”

In 42 games before the All-Star break, Lopez averaged 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds (4.1 defensive) while shooting 50.2 percent from the field. In 20 games after the break, he’s averaging 19.3 points and 9.1 rebounds (4.9 defensive) while shooting 51.3 percent.

Injury update: Young (knee strain) is questionable for Tuesday’s game against Indiana. Point guard Deron Williams (illness) was not at the team’s shooting/film session Monday, and it’s unknown if he’ll play.