AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Don't tell Stan Van Gundy that Brook Lopez is having a down season.
Although Lopez entered Saturday night's game averaging 15 points per game, his lowest output since his rookie season of 2008-09, and only 6.1 rebounds in 26.3 minutes per contest, Van Gundy thinks it's way too early to sound any alarms regarding the production of the Nets' 7-footer.
"To me, Brook's the same way he's always been," Van Gundy said. "He is a great- shooting big guy. I mean, especially at his size, I don't know that there's many guys that have ever played in the league that shoot that jump shot as well as he does -- jump shot, set shot, whatever you want to call it -- and then he's a load in the low post, and he's really, really tough to play. He's so strong and he does a good job of getting down low and leveraging and using that crab dribble. And then defensively and on the boards, you have to deal with his size.
"Brook's only had one problem in the league, and he's had trouble staying healthy. Everything else has been very good, so when he's healthy, he is one of the best big men in the league, particularly at the offensive end of the floor."
Rough road ahead
Saturday night's game was the second in a stretch of six contests in nine days for the Nets.
This week's slate features several juicy story lines. The intrigue ranges from the Rockets' Dwight Howard playing his first game in Brooklyn to Lionel Hollins coaching against the Grizzlies -- his former team -- to games on consecutive nights against former Net Paul Pierce's Wizards.
Given that the Nets are so banged up, it will provide quite a challenge for Hollins. "Well, that's the difficult part, is that we are missing a couple of bodies," he said. "So it's difficult to sit guys, and frankly we have guys that aren't playing as well as they need to play in order for me to have confidence to leave them on the court. Our bench guys have to play better and make an impact on the game somehow, some way offensively and give us a break."