Forty years ago, Lionel Hollins was a rookie on the Portland Trail Blazers, a highly touted point guard out of Arizona State picked sixth in the 1975 draft.
In just the fifth game of his professional career — and the first of his career on the road — he found himself in a nerve-racking position, standing on the court at Madison Square Garden between Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe of the Knicks.
“My knees were shaking, and they’re patting me on the butt, and then you got to go out and compete,” said Hollins, the coach of the Nets, who lost, 108-91, to the Knicks on Friday. “I mean, I had Clyde Frazier’s picture over my bed in my dorm room, but now I’m in the N.B.A. It’s over. There’s no more idolization.”
The experience that Hollins described, that continual cycle of life in professional sports, echoes reliably through…