DENVER — The Nets’ season has been a far cry from what Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez envisioned when they first teamed up last summer, thanks to two hamstring injuries that sidelined Lin for all but 12 of the first 56 games. There was considerable uncertainty about Lopez’s security as the face of the franchise before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, but that’s all behind them now.
Lin started for the first time since Dec. 26 against the Nuggets last night at Pepsi Center, Lopez still was a Net and the club’s NBA-worst 9-48 record following a 129-109 loss hardly seemed to matter. Lying in front of them was a chance for a fresh start and, barring more injuries, 25 more games to show what they can do together before the organization must decide Lopez’s future ahead of the NBA Draft in June.
Lin played 14 minutes and had seven points and five assists. Lopez had 17 points and only one rebound in 26 minutes.
Asked after the morning shootaround how it felt to survive yet another trade deadline, Lopez smiled and said: “I’m good. I’m where I want to be. Like I always say, I ignore that stuff anyway. There’s so many variables going on, so many things that can change your mindset or attitude toward certain things that I just focus on what I can control.”
As much as Lopez was looking forward to teaming up with Lin again, he downplayed the pressure on them to convince general manager Sean Marks that their pairing has a long-term future.
“I don’t think we’re really concerned on showing the organization, but we obviously are confident in what we can do together,” Lopez said. “We’ve had a little taste of it before. We’re excited to help our team win in whatever way possible.”
The Nets’ 15-game losing streak is the longest in the league this season.
Breaking it will be a tall task on an eight-game road trip that begins with a back-to-back against the Nuggets and the Warriors Saturday night in Oakland.
Lin was excited to be on the floor again. “First, I just want to have fun and enjoy the game,” he said. “That’s something I really miss, obviously. Just be aggressive, try to make plays. The game that I got hurt, Charlotte, I felt like that first half, I was just more aggressive than normal and making more plays. I want to try to get back to that.”
Lin felt confident that Lopez would finish this season with the Nets. That’s what he signed up for, after all.
“I didn’t think he was going to get moved, so I wasn’t too nervous,” Lin said. “I’m definitely excited to be back out on the floor with him. We have a lot of fun playing together, for sure.”
Asked if he felt Lopez’s head was in a good place after all the trade rumors, Lin laughed and said: “His head’s always in a good place, man. It doesn’t matter how he’s feeling, what’s going on, he just gets buckets. So I think he’ll be fine.”
Lin insisted his own head is in a good place and that he’s not feeling pressure to turn it around for the Nets. Lopez said he always was confident he could fit into the Nets’ new system. Now it’s a matter of making the most out of the final 26 games for the “Brook-Lin” pairing.
“I’m not really concerned that we won’t mesh,” Lopez said. “I’m confident we will. I’m definitely sure we’re going to put our best foot forward, the two of us. At the end of the day, we just want to get wins. That’s the most important thing.”