EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- What Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo did to leading scorer Brook Lopez in three of the last four games was roughly equivalent to Oscar organizers playing "Jaws" music Sunday night to hustle stars off the stage at their biggest moment.
Carlesimo, in back-to-back wins over Milwaukee and during Sunday night's loss to Memphis, sent Lopez to the bench throughout the fourth quarter. Although Lopez insisted Monday that he is intent on not overthinking the situation, and that backup center Andray Blatche deserved to be on the court, Carlesimo offered mea culpas.
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"I created the situation and it's not a good situation," he said. "I worry about it, and I need to address it and watch what I do. I don't worry about it that Brook will let it bother him or that Brook will hold a grudge or anything like that. Brook -- fortunately for me -- is very, very good with things like that. He cares about the team, is supportive of Dray when Dray is in the game. He and Dray have been a really good combo for us all year.
"But I've gone too far with this. I've abused it, where I shouldn't have done it as much as I have with Brook, three times in four days."
The 7-foot Lopez, a fourth-year pro who recently played in his first All-Star Game, is averaging 18.7 points in 30.3 minutes per game, compared with Blatche's 10.0 points and 19.0 minutes. Also, Lopez's strength, offense, appeared to be the Nets' greatest need in the grinding 76-72 loss to Memphis.
Lopez diplomatically shrugged off the benchings.
"Dray's been playing well," he said. "I'm happy to see he's in the game playing well and, for the most part, he's been good in crunch time for us and especially good for us these last four games. You can go crazy with the what-ifs and everything: If we'd run the play properly, or if our shots had gone down and theirs hadn't, there's a million possibilities. I don't think it's anything to worry about."
Carlesimo noted that he used four non-starters with Deron Williams late in the game, and stuck with them because of their overall production.
"It was really less Andray [versus] Brook and more the group of five," Carlesimo said. "But it ended up being . . . the third time I did that to Brook, so that was not good."
Joe Johnson, who missed the last two games with a bruised left heel, participated in the shooting-only workout Monday but was unsure if he will play Tuesday night in New Orleans.