The Nets return home after a successful trip to Toronto on Wednesday night, and they’ll have their big man back for Friday’s tilt with the Pistons.
Center Brook Lopez is officially a go tonight, back in the starting lineup after missing the last seven games with a sprained foot. Coach Avery Johnson said that Lopez will play about half the game, and it will be constant communication during those minutes to see how he feels and try to avoid losing Lopez once again.
“We don’t know what will happen tomorrow or going forward, but we’ll take it day by day, and see where he is at all times,” Johnson said. “The idea is not to have any setbacks, and I think we’ve done everything under the sun and taken every precaution to make sure of that, but now it’s time for him to get out on the court and try to get back to where he was, and we’ll talk about tomorrow when tonight is over with.”
Lopez will start up front alongside Reggie Evans, who will be the starting power forward for the fourth straight game. Evans, who had nine points and 11 rebounds in Wednesday’s win, will also get some minutes with the second unit alongside Andray Blatche – with Johnson saying he might sub Evans out early to accommodate that – but the coach was also quick to say that Kris Humphries’ move to a reserve role is more of a comfort issue than a performance one.
“Reggie has been in the lineup and is in a pretty good rhythm, so we didn’t want to come out and have two guys now starting that haven’t been,” Johnson said of the lineup shuffle. “We’ll see how it goes; it’s early enough that we can give it a game or two or three to see how we like Brook and Reggie starting, and we can always go back to Hump. He’s been solid for us, but we just want to try something else.”
The Nets will try to snap a four-game home losing streak that has sent their Barclays record spiraling to 7-5. Johnson said he believes that having Lopez back will help the Nets control the pace and break out of their malaise.
“Our defense has kind of regressed a little bit, we’ve given up more points, and we’ve taken some bad threes,” Johnson said, “so there’s a drastic statistical difference, but hopefully we’ll get back to playing our pace. We have a certain pace that works for us, and when we play faster, we’re less effective.”
Although Lopez is back, he is replaced on the injury report by Jerry Stackhouse, who will be inactive tonight because of a sore right knee. Stackhouse did not play Wednesday – a planned “off-day” for the veteran – but Johnson said he did in fact “tweak” his knee during Tuesday’s loss to the Knicks.
“When he woke up on Wednesday, Jerry wasn’t feeling too good either way,” Johnson said, but he was coy when asked if the tweak may have come on Stackhouse’s frantic attempt to defend Jason Kidd’s game-winning shot on Tuesday, only saying that “it was a rough tumble.”
In one final note, this game marks former Nets coach Lawrence Frank’s first visit to the Barclays Center, which was in the infancy of its planning stages when he was let go 16 games into the 2009-10 season.
Frank was born and raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, and had nothing but praise for Barclays Center – and the Nets’ move to Brooklyn – in his pre-game press briefing.
“When I was here, this was just a thought, but you see all the hard work that went into it becoming a reality,” Frank said. “(Barclays Center developer and former Nets owner) Bruce Ratner stayed the course, they invested in the team and in the city, and it’s a beautiful building.”