EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — In the course of a season, Lionel Hollins will field thousands of questions from reporters concerning his Brooklyn Nets. How and which he answers, he will tell you, is his prerogative.
After Thursday afternoon’s practice at the team’s headquarters, Hollins used that word seven times in his nearly 11-minute explanation of his lack of explanation for not playing Bojan Bogdanovic more the night before.
“You know why I gave you ‘coach’s decision?’ ” Hollins said. “Because I don’t want to divulge any other reason. That’s my prerogative.”
The decision came toward the end of the Nets’ 119-118 overtime loss to the Mavericks on Wednesday night. Bogdanovic — who went 5-for-5 from three-point range in just over 25 minutes through the first three quarters — was on the bench late in the fourth quarter and in overtime, including the final possession.
When asked about it during his postgame news conference, Hollins said: “Well, I could just say coach’s decision, which it was. And I’ll just leave it at that.”
When pressed further, Hollins added only: “I don’t want to talk about it.” Then he left the podium.
Bogdanovic is not known for his defense, and in crunch time, against a small Dallas lineup, he could have been a liability on the defensive end of the floor. But Hollins refused to get into his specific reasoning, citing his desire to protect his players.
“I have to coach those guys every day,” he said. “And they got to believe in me and trust what I’m saying, and that I care about them as well. And in doing that, I have to try and protect them. Simple as that. So there’s a lot of questions you may ask me and think I should answer, but from my perspective, I know I shouldn’t answer them. Because I’m thinking about them.
“I make a lot of decisions during the course of the game. Some people object to some of them, especially fans, but I can’t coach to the fans. And I don’t have to answer to the fans. I really don’t . . . Whether 20 million people want to know the answer, if I choose not to answer, that’s my prerogative.”
For his part, Bogdanovic didn’t vocalize any objections with Hollins’ decision.
“Honestly, that’s the coach’s decision,” Bogdanovic said. “The guys on the court did a great job. So did that lineup to close the game to get a win. I don’t have any problem with that. I respect the coach’s decision.”
From Hollins’ perspective, refusing to give more than ‘‘coach’s decision” is the product of past lessons learned.
“I’ll give you an example,” he said. “Last year, I take Brook out of the game against Orlando. People say why’d you take Brook out? Well, he wasn’t playing defense. Next day, it’s like this big whole thing about ‘I have a problem with Brook.’ I didn’t freaking have a problem with Brook. And I didn’t want to make it a whole other story because that’s part of what you guys do. And I understand that. But by understanding that, I try to protect everybody on my team.”