"This is the Brooklyn Nets," Hollins said defiantly after his team's 107-99 win over the Sacramento Kings Monday night at Barclays Center. "Yes, they were starters, but they've been in and out of the lineup. And if you note, while they were out we started playing better and winning, so why would I go back and change the lineup for now?"
Hollins had challenged Williams and Lopez to play better in order to earn more minutes after they went a combined 2-for-12 from the field in Saturday night's 25-point loss to the Indiana Pacers. They did against the Kings. Lopez, who was held without a point two days ago, had 11 points and six rebounds in 12 minutes, while Williams had six points and three assists in 17 minutes. The duo helped the Nets, who entered the game ranked 29th in average second-quarter scoring margin, outscore the Kings 30-16 in the second.
"I would hope that they would play better and they did," Hollins said. "Hopefully they will continue to play well and maybe we can have a good mix of starters and bench. Before, we didn't have a good mix, so hopefully this will help us out. Both of those guys are accepting of their roles and are helping us win, and that's what this business is all about."
The Nets (14-16) are 4-1 since starting Jarrett Jack, Sergey Karasev, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett and Mason Plumlee. During that span, they have gone to more of a spread pick-and-roll offense, a change from the flex/post-heavy offense they ran earlier in the season.
Lopez, who missed eight straight games due to a strained lower back, has come off the bench the past four games, while Williams, who missed two straight games due to a strained right calf, has come off the bench the past three games. Both players have been accepting of their new roles.
Lopez, however, did receive his first start since Dec. 5 Tuesday night against the Chicago Bulls. But it was only because Kevin Garnett received a rest day because the game marked the second half of a back-to-back set.
Jack (five games) and Plumlee (nine games) specifically have flourished since moving into the starting five, averaging 19.4 points and 5.4 assists and 16.4 points and 9.6 rebounds respectively.
"We're winning, man, so that's all that matters," Williams said. "We have team guys, we're not selfish, we're not bigger than the team. That first group is definitely rocking right now, so let them rock."
"It's not that different," Lopez said of playing a reserve role. "I just try to come in and be the same player that I always am."
Williams ($19.8 million) and Lopez ($15.7 million) rank in the top 20 among the NBA's highest-paid players.