“The Plan,” as Nets coach Kenny Atkinson repeatedly has referred to how the organization is managing playing time for franchise center Brook Lopez, seems to be working through the first eight games.
Although Lopez sat out the second game of the first back-to-back set of the season, he successfully “bartered” for the chance to play against the Knicks in the second back-to-back set, so “The Plan” apparently is flexible.
Lopez delivered 21 points in 24 minutes in a loss to the Knicks one night after scoring 26 points in just over 27 minutes in a win over Minnesota. He sat out the third game of the season in what turned out to be a winnable game at Milwaukee that the Nets lost on a buzzer-beater, but Atkinson said the team weighed input from Lopez as part of the decision to let him play both games of the latest back-to-back.
“I felt like I could play this back-to-back set,” Lopez said. “It was something I wanted to be part of, no question. So we kind of bartered. I was pretty limited in the practice right before this back-to-back. So we tried to lessen my load that way.”
Atkinson said the fact that the Nets are without injured point guard Jeremy Lin had no influence on the decision to use Lopez against the Knicks. “As with all of our players, we look at it on an individual basis,” Atkinson said. “Our performance team looks at how he’s feeling, and obviously, Brook’s opinion counts, too. He’s in a good place right now. That’s kind of how it’s going to be all year. We’re going to take it on a game-by-game basis.”
The Nets (3-5) start a four-game western swing Saturday night in Phoenix, and the trip includes back-to-back games in Los Angeles against the Clippers on Monday night and the Lakers on Tuesday night. Lopez has “no idea” how he will be used in those games, but he’s making the most of every minute of playing time.
“I try to, yeah,” he said. “I want to go out there and be aggressive along with my teammates and find the best looks and opportunity for everyone on the floor.”
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Lopez ranks ninth in the NBA in points per 48 minutes at 38.9 points, which is an efficiency percentage of .810 for the 20.6 points per game Lopez has averaged in 25.4 minutes. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook leads with a .920 percentage and Lopez ranks just behind the Warriors’ Kevin Durant and ahead of the Warriors’ Steph Curry. Nice company.
Asked about his improved efficiency, Lopez said, “A lot of it is scientific. I don’t think it can be completely scientific. It has to be feel, obviously. But it definitely has [helped]. I feel very fresh when I’m out there playing. I feel good and crisp.”