Brook Lopez has been a mainstay in the starting lineup since his rookie season in 2008, when he cracked the Nets' top five eight games into his pro career.
But that might be about to change.
Lopez returned to action Tuesday night after sitting out the previous eight games with a lower-back strain, coming off the bench for the first time in years. He finished with six points and four rebounds in his first game since Dec. 5, and indicated he wouldn't be averse to being a part of the Nets' reserves if that's what coach Lionel Hollins decides.
"Whatever the situation is, I'm going to do it," Lopez said. "I'm a coachable guy. I'm not a selfish guy. So whatever we do, as long as it works, guys will be for it."
Hollins was coy about his plans for Lopez before the tip, noting he might not even put the 7-footer into the game because he wasn't exactly sure how effective he could be after only one practice since getting injured freakishly lifting weights before practice Dec. 7. But he checked in to begin the second quarter, and his driving layup over Jusuf Nurkic with 9:49 left in the half signaled he was back, able to once again contribute and professing his conditioning was up to par.
"I'm going to leave it to them, but I definitely felt good out there," Lopez said. "I could've even gone longer. I'm not worried about getting into shape. I think I'll be all right."
Deron's return unclear
Deron Williams' goal was to play all 82 games this season following a pair of injury-marred campaigns, but he'll have to shoot for 80 now.
He missed his second straight game with a low-grade right calf strain and Hollins didn't provide much of a timetable for when Williams might return.
"The update is he's not playing," Hollins said. "Either he's playing or he's not playing and he's not playing. So [wheter it's], I feel better, I feel the same, he's still not playing. So it doesn't matter as far as I'm concerned."
Tuesday night marked the first time the Nets have used the same starting lineup in consecutive games since Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 when they met the Bulls and Knicks. In the previous 10 games, 11 different Nets recorded at least one start.