Lopez finally getting to bask in the playoffs
Even by the standards of Brook Lopez, the Net who brings "low key'' to new heights, this was an understatement. After Game 1 of the playoffs Saturday night, he said, "I was waiting for this for a while.''
For a while? How about his whole life, especially every day since the Nets chose him in the first round five years ago. Lopez never had been in a postseason game, and the Nets had not been there since 2007.
So just being in the game against the Bulls on Saturday night was huge for him, allowing him to avoid being one of those pro athletes who get their names mentioned as having gone so long without sniffing the playoffs. Lopez not only played but was dominant at times (21 points) as the Nets won, 106-89. That opened the way for him to just play for the rest of the series, and the rest of the playoffs, if the Nets advance.
"I don't know if there's any normal way to go about this or anything like that,'' said Lopez, who again scored 21 points in the Nets' 90-82 loss in Game 2 Monday night. "This is status quo for me, as far as it's concerned, being that this is all of my experience in the playoffs.''
He made it clear that he will not do anything wacky, such as getting a playoff haircut. From here on, he wants to keep it as normal as possible. In his 10-point second quarter Monday night, he kept hitting long shots and revived the Nets -- more or less normal for him.
Until this season, "normal'' had an awful connotation for Lopez. He was there for the Nets' final hopeless years in the Meadowlands and the two seasons in Newark. He was the one constant, and he came to symbolize the team's lack of postseason appearances. He was the big man who stood for having fallen short.
Plus, he was the one most often talked about as a trading chip to help the team improve in time for the move to Brooklyn. So a sea of losses and an ocean of rumors made the first taste of postseason sweeter. "I was a little anxious,'' he said.
More often than not this season, the All-Star has made the other side anxious. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Monday night that Lopez "has got a great touch; he's a very tough back-to-the-basket guy.''
Lopez also is a feet-solidly- on-the-ground guy, figuratively and literally (given his vertical leap). He was amazed by point guard Deron Williams' two-handed jam Saturday night.
"What can I say?'' the 7-footer said. "I can't do that.''