Lionel Hollins compares Nets’ Markel Brown to Tony Alle

By on April 3, 2015

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Thursday, April 2, 2015, 4:02 PM

Markel Brown goes to the basket as the Nets edge the Knicks on Wednesday.Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Markel Brown goes to the basket as the Nets edge the Knicks on Wednesday.

On a team full of high-priced former All-Stars, it’s easy to overlook Markel Brown.

While athletic, his game isn’t necessarily flashy.

He rarely hams it up on the court.

But on Feb. 27, in a game against the Houston Rockets, Nets Coach Lionel Hollins could barely take his eyes off the 6-3 rookie.

In just his third start of his NBA career, Brown was assigned to guard James Harden in what seemed like a massive mismatch.

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Instead, Brown rose to the occasion, helping to limit Harden, who was playing on a sore right ankle, to just 15 points and forcing him to miss 11 of 15 shots.

For Hollins, it was a transformative performance, convincing him that Brown deserved to remain a starter.

It also reminded him of another player he once coached.

“And I said then, ‘I think we’ve found our Tony Allen,’” said Hollins, comparing Brown to the Memphis swingman and defensive stalwart, on WFAN Radio. “I said, this kid can guard and he gives us a lift at the beginning of games with his intensity and aggressiveness…He has a little attitude about him that I like. He’s not afraid to mix it up and stick his nose in there.”

It was a giant compliment, considering the affection that Hollins has for Allen, whom he coached in Memphis, and who is credited in part with helping to change the culture there with his “grit-n-grind” style.

Now, Hollins is hoping that Brown can also be that glue as the Nets (34-40) make a push for the playoffs.

The Nets — who didn’t practice on Thursday and face Toronto (45-30) at home on Friday — moved into a tie for seventh in the East following Wednesday’s 100-98 win over the Knicks.

Brown had 14 points and three steals in 34 minutes at the Garden, his third straight game in which he scored in double digits and played at least 31 minutes, proof that he’s earned Hollins’ trust.

Tony Allen.Brandon Dill/AP

Tony Allen.

“I told him, ‘You have a chance to be one of the good defensive players in this league as you keep growing and maturing,’” Hollins later told Mike Lupica on ESPN New York Radio. “I don’t see Markel guarding (forwards) like Tony but he brings a presence that helps us.”

Hollins also credited Brown with helping to shut down Dallas guard Monta Ellis on Feb. 28, a day after bothering Harden..

“I didn’t know that he could defend like that,” Hollins said on WFAN.

The similarities between Brown and Allen extend beyond their hard-nosed, defensive play.

They are both Oklahoma State products who needed injuries to pave the way to more playing time.

With Bojan Bogdanovic nursing an ankle sprain, Brown was inserted as a starter on Feb. 23, and he has remained there ever since.

Allen was similarly pushed into the starting lineup with an injury to Rudy Gay and a suspension to OJ Mayo (both have since moved on to other teams) in a game against Oklahoma City in 2011.

Allen totaled 27 points, five steals and three blocks in a performance that helped forge his reputation.

For a time, injuries were the enemy after Brown was selected 44th overall in June’s NBA Draft.

He fractured his shooting hand in August and was hampered with a hip-pointer in November.

But after rarely playing in the first half of the season, Brown has taken advantage of his opportunities.

“He was the last guy that got a shot,” Hollins told Lupica. “That’s what’s so interesting about this whole thing is that everybody got a chance to play and got some minutes. Markel got hurt — he didn’t get a chance and he came back. Now, he’s helping us down the stretch do good things.”

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lionel hollins ,
markel brown ,
tony allen

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