Sitting in a chair in the interview in Barclays Center, his seven-foot frame stretched out, Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez stood tall.
Speaking for the first time since he broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot for the third time in his career on Dec. 20, Lopez, who underwent significant surgery on Jan. 4th, vowed to return next year and do so as an All-Star caliber player.
"There's no question in my mind,'' said Lopez, who reiterated, "no question in my mind.''
Lopez spoke at halftime of the Nets 93-81 win over the New Orleans Pelicans Sunday, a victory that moved the Nets to within two and one-half games of the Toronto Raptors for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Lopez, 25, is in the prime of his career. He was averaging 20.7 points on 56-percent shooting and six rebounds. He said he does not fear that the setbacks suffered by other big men with foot injuries – Yao Ming and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, will befall him.
"I'm not scared at all,'' he said. "I'm confident I'm going to get back on the court, and I'm going to do everything I can.''
"There's no doubt in my mind I'll be back on the floor playing with my guys. Whatever it takes, I'm going to be out there.''
In a stunning bit of coincidence, Nets fans saw reason for optimism Sunday night if Lopez isn't ready for the start of next season. Rookie Mason Plumlee had his first, 20-10 career double-double, scoring 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting, with 13 rebounds.
Forward Mirza Teletovic added 13 points and 11 rebounds as the Nets won without any starting player scoring in double figures, a first in franchise history.
The Nets season looked dead in the water when Lopez went down in a 121-120 overtime loss to the Sixers in Philadelphia that dropped the record to 9-17. Since then the Nets have gone 14-9.
Lopez said he is not surprised by the team's success.
"I mean, you look at the pieces we have and the guys we have, I think play like this could be expected,'' he said. "We're very excited at the way it's going right now and obviously we want to win out going into the all-star break and we'll be in a good position.''
Lopez believes the extensive surgery will allow him to return without risk of another injury to the same bone. In addition to fixing the latest fracture, Lopez also had a second procedure, a first metatarsal osteotomy, in which another bone was repositioned in his foot to shift how he bears his weight.
Ilgauskas had the same procedure and it extended his career. So did Grant Hill.
Lopez said he has yet to speak to either player but has conversed with point guard Shaun Livingston, who is experiencing a renaissance with the Nets after suffering a terrible knee injury in 2007.
"They're trying to put more pressure on the inside of my foot,'' he said. "I put a lot of pressure on the outside of my foot. Essentially what they did was lower the arch on the inside of my foot."
"So there should be more pressure on there now, so it will be interesting to learn to walk differently for the first time. I'm gonna be falling on my face more than I do already, which is a lot.''
The fact that Lopez could have a sense of humor is a testament to the positive approach he is taking. Lopez missed all but five games of the 2011-12 season after suffering the same injury. He did not have the osteotomy that time.
There are no guarantees this will work. Lopez was carrying 290 pounds on his 7-foot frame, putting a lot of pressure on both feet. But he is confident the Nets' medical staff has found an approach that will allow him to enjoy a long and successful career.
"It's not something I'm worried about,'' he said. "I don't think I could go on the court and play basketball having that doubt in my mind.''
"We've done everything that we can and I can at this point to take care of it, and it's been taken care of, again, like I said, to the best it can by the best people in the world that it could be taken care of. So it's up to me to do the right things in this rehab and get myself back on the court where I won't have to worry about it again.''