Lopez Named NBA Player of the Week and Leads Nets' Playoff Surge
EAST RUTHERFORD -- Getting Brook Lopez to talk about being named NBA Player of the Week is a lot like trying to defend the Nets 7-foot center these days.
Good luck trying.
"I wouldn't be in the conversation for this award if we'd been losing, and we haven't been,'' Lopez told BrooklynNets.com. "We're winning games.''
Lopez is spot on. The award goes to a player on a team that posted a winning record in the games from March 23-29. The Nets (32-40) went 3-1 last week. After Boston's win over Charlotte on Monday night, they stand mere percentage points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference heading into Tuesday night's game at Barclays Center against the Indiana Pacers.
Lopez averaged 28.8 points on 57.8-percent shooting from the field, along with 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. He had three games scoring 30 or more points and two double-doubles in the four-game stretch.
Lopez missed almost all of last season after suffering a broken bone in his right foot. He had surgery to repair that fracture and redistribute the weight bearing in the foot. He also had surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left ankle.
Lopez said he didn't feel as if he had completely regained his game until just before the All-Star break.
"I feel like have an extra bounce out there,'' he said. "I'm comfortable and I'm feeling in shape, like I'm completely myself out there.''
Nets Coach Lionel Hollins, who has been Lopez's harshest critic, had nothing but praise for his center following the Nets' 107-99 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center. Lopez had 30 points and 11 rebounds.
"We’re playing towards him and he’s delivered,'' said Hollins. "He’s played big-time basketball.''
MAKING HIS MARK: You'll have to forgive Brooklyn Nets guard Markel Brown if he's been pinching himself these days.
On Sunday afternoon the rookie scored a career-high 17 points in the win over the Lakers. Monday morning he was reading to students at the New York League for Early Learning Greenpoint School on Leonard Street in Brooklyn.
Not bad for a second-round pick who was expected to spend most of the season in the NBA Developmental League.
"I was surprised they knew who I was,'' Brown said. "New York is the mecca of basketball. There are so many players that have come from the city and play in the city. I'm just a rookie.''
A rising rookie. Brown broke into the starting lineup on Feb. 23 in spectacular fashion, scoring 10 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking four shots in the Nets' 110-82 win over the Nuggets in Denver. His defense and athleticism caught the eye of Coach Lionel Hollins, who stuck with Brown as a starter even though he wasn't contributing much on the offensive end.
But in the days leading up to the win over the Lakers, Hollins noticed Brown was shooting the ball better in practice and told him to be more aggressive on offense. The combination of Brown, and fellow rookie Bojan Bogdanovic, gives the Nets a bright future at the shooting guard spot.
The future, however, is now for Brooklyn.
The Nets' game against the Pacers is the latest key contest in Brooklyn's playoff push. The Nets (32-40) hold a half-game lead over the Pacers. The Charlotte Hornets (31-42) are a game and a half behind Brooklyn.
The Nets beat the Pacers, 123-111, on March 21 in Indianapolis, one night after beating the Milwaukee Bucks, 129-127, in triple OT at Barclays Center. Since losing five straight, the Nets have won 7 of 9 and five of their last six. Brown, the 44th player selected in the draft, is averaging 4.4 points and 2.1 rebounds.
After going off on the Lakers, he found himself doing postgame interviews on radio and TV, which did not go unnoticed by his teammates. Lopez, Alan Anderson and Jarrett Jack made sure to remind Brown he's still a rookie.
"I averaged 17 points in college and I've had one 17-point game in the NBA,'' said Brown, who played at Oklahoma State. "It just goes to show the difference between college and the NBA. There are no easy nights in this league.''
DOUBLE VISION FOR DOUBLE A: Two weeks ago the Nets' playoff chance was in doubt. So was Michigan State's chance to make it to the Final Four. But the Nets have surged back into the playoffs by getting key contributions from a lot of players, including Michigan State alum Alan Anderson.
"You can never count out Michigan State,'' Anderson said. "The NCAA Tournament was a given. The Final Four, once I saw the bracket and knowing how good Coach [Tom] Izzo is in the tournament, I knew we'd get there. Michigan State players do a little of everything and we never back down."
Anderson picked the Spartans to beat Duke in their national semifinal game and Wisconsin to upset Kentucky, setting up an all-Big Ten championship game and a rematch of the league's championship game. Duke grad Mason Plumlee may have something to say about that.