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Brook Lopez out for Nets' season opener vs. Celtics

Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez during the second

Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez during the second day of training camp on September 28, 2014. Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

BOSTON - Brook Lopez was strictly an observer Wednesday night, watching the action from the bench in a suit.

His 2014-15 regular-season debut will have to wait.

Lopez's mild sprained right mid-foot didn't sufficiently heal and the Nets' starting center was held out of the matchup with the Celtics at TD Garden. Mason Plumlee started in place of Lopez, who was diagnosed with the injury Oct. 16 and originally was expected to be sidelined 10-14 days, according to the team.

Coach Lionel Hollins said Lopez is "still having some pains when he goes hard," indicating he's not going to be available until he's no longer experiencing discomfort with his "soft tissue" injury.

Asked if he was somewhat pleased with the way Lopez's health is progressing, Hollins said: "I have no idea what progressing means. Is he pregnant or not pregnant? He's not playing. He can't play. When he can play then he will have progressed the way I would like him to progress."

Lopez, who had been working his way back from surgery on both feet, returned to practice Monday, but hasn't participated in any of the contact portions. He started feeling soreness after getting his foot stepped on in the win over the Kings in China on Oct. 15, and given his history of foot ailments and knowing he hasn't played a full 82-game season since 2010-11, it's raised more than a few eyebrows.

But Deron Williams, who had offseason surgery himself and is aware of the importance of health, isn't ready to get all worked up over Lopez sitting out at this point.

"Well it's early," Williams said. "There's no break. It's just a little sprain. I think with Brook, when it's with his feet, you are going to err on the cautious side. So we know that, we expect that, and we want him to get better and we look forward to him returning."

Lopez’s return will provide the Nets with a much-needed presence inside. Brooklyn has been repeatedly attacked on the interior during its first two games and at times has yielded baskets way too easily.

Offensively, although they’ve utilized a few players on the blocks, it’s not the same as pounding it down low with Lopez.
“Brook’s back and we feel like we can get the ball in the post,” Hollins said. “It’s nice to have that big anchor that you can throw it to and that they have to come play.”

Conditioning initially may be an issue for Lopez, and adapting to the team’s uptempo style on the run won’t be easy. The stiffest challenge could be processing all of Hollins’ schemes and quickly mastering them.
That’s why Lopez knows it’s extremely important for him to maintain strict focus on the court.

“I think I’m just going to have to come out and be mentally prepared,” Lopez said, “make sure I have the sets down, the defensive plays. It’s tough coming in from doing pretty much nothing to playing full NBA games, with the speed of the game and everything’s going on, and what you have to know, how fast you have to go and how quick you have to think. So it’s going to take a lot of preparedness, but I’ll be ready.”

Notes & quotes: Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is expected to attend Monday’s game and Hollins finally will get to chat with him in the flesh: “I’m looking forward to meeting him in person,” Hollins said. “I’ve talked to him a couple of times on the phone. … Everybody that I work with on a daily basis I see on a daily basis, so that is probably more important than just meeting him one time. But it will be nice to see him in person and talk to him.” … The Empire State Building will be lit in black-and-white Monday night to celebrate the Nets home opener.

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