Hollins showed almost immediate improvement when he landed in Boston on March 23, meshing with Garnett and forming an occasionally impenetrable defensive duo in the post. The 17-year veteran even went to unusual lengths to mentor Hollins, 27, a gesture the younger player appreciated.
“I’m not saying I’m him, of course,” Hollins said in May. “We have different games, but he is someone built similar to me. I can hear it from other players, but everybody has their own perspective. It’s like a big muscle guy trying to tell you how to box out or something. It makes more sense if it’s someone having a similar frame.”
Hollins has something else in common with Garnett this offseason: Both are free agents. While the Celtics’ offseason plan hangs in the balance as the team awaits word on whether Garnett wishes to return at a reasonable rate, Hollins may end up being one of the last pieces added once the rest of the roster is filled out.
The UCLA product was a capable shot-blocker when he got in position on defense, and his ability to raise up for putbacks or alley-oops brought a new dimension to the mostly ground-bound Celtics. Rajon Rondo occasionally got so amped up leading the break with Hollins at his side, the point guard would overthrow the lob pass to the 7-foot Hollins.
Hollins made a prorated amount of the veteran’s minimum salary last season, and it is unlikely the Celtics would offer him much more than that in 2012-13. With the field for unrestricted free agent big men thin this offseason, Hollins might have to decide if he wants to stay in his current setting or try to get slightly more money elsewhere.