Mason Plumlee thriving in Lopez's spot

December, 24, 2014
Dec 24
1:09
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NEW YORK -- In Tuesday's win against the Denver Nuggets, Brook Lopez came off the bench for the first time since Nov. 12, 2008. Lopez was just seven games into his rookie season then. He went on to start the next 531 games of his career.

In his first game back after missing the previous eight because of a strained lower back, the 26-year-old had six points and four rebounds in eight minutes.

Things may be changing in the middle for the Brooklyn Nets. The team is now playing their best basketball with second-year pro Mason Plumlee starting at center. Starting for Lopez the past eight games, the 24-year-old is averaging 16.9 points on 59.3 percent shooting, 10.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.

Plumlee spoke with Hollins recently about wanting to get better and has started to play within his limitations, taking advantage of his athleticism and finishing around the rim on alley-oops and dives to the rim off pick-and-roll actions. According to CBS, Plumlee has 41 made dunks this season, eighth-most in the NBA.

“Mason made a conscious decision to go and just play and not worry about what I say if I yell at him, if I take him out of the game -- just go play,” said Hollins. “His confidence is rising. He’s doing some stuff that I haven’t seen since I've been here, and it’s good to see.”

Said Plumlee: “When you are kinda in a groove, whatever is said to you, you can turn it into something positive. If [Lionel] is saying something to me about my free throws I’m saying to myself, ‘Well, that is because at the end of games he wants me to hit my free throws.’ When you get rolling, you just turn everything positive. You take the criticism and the encouragement all the same and you use it to your advantage.”

Plumlee has been especially effective playing with swingman Joe Johnson; the duo has outscored opponents by 8.1 points per 100 possessions over their past 196 minutes on the court together. On the other hand, the Johnson-Lopez combination has outscored opponents by just 0.2 points per 100 possessions in 418 minutes in 2014-15.

The problem with playing Johnson and Lopez together is both like to dominate the ball. Lopez has recorded just 12 assists all season; Johnson has the 11th-best assist rate among NBA small forward and is good at finding the open man when doubled in the post.

“Mason’s been tremendous -- energy, effort, taking the challenge and playing some 3s, 4s and 5s," Johnson said. "I think he’s done a tremendous job filling in in Brook’s absence."

The Nets have been dreadful in second quarters, during which they’re shooting 42.3 percent from the field and getting outscored by 19.9 points per 100 possessions since Nov. 12. Moving Lopez to the second unit could help stabilize a struggling second unit.

Lopez, who signed a four-year maximum contract extension in 2012, said Tuesday night that he’s fine with coming off the bench if it’s what’s best for the team. Given the way Plumlee is playing, the Nets may not have a choice.

Nets to ease D-Will into lineup

December, 24, 2014
Dec 24
12:22
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Point guard Deron Williams "probably" will not start right away when he returns to the Brooklyn Nets' lineup, coach Lionel Hollins said Wednesday.

Williams, who has missed the past two games due to a right calf strain, returned to practice but did not do much, Hollins said. His status for Friday afternoon's game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden is unclear.

Williams, whose name was brought up in trade talks with the Sacramento Kings, sources told ESPN.com, declined to talk to the media.

Hollins decided to bring center Brook Lopez off the bench Tuesday night after he missed eight straight games due to a lower back strain. Lopez, who started the past 351 games he played, had six points and four rebounds in eight minutes. He had not come off the bench since Nov. 12, 2008 -- the seventh game of his rookie season.


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Johnson, Plumlee put BK on their backs

December, 24, 2014
Dec 24
12:02
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NEW YORK -- This is how the Brooklyn Nets won Tuesday night: They went small in the fourth quarter and rode Joe Johnson and Mason Plumlee down the stretch.

And of course all of this happened with both Brook Lopez and Deron Williams on the bench.

Down 85-78 in the fourth, Johnson and Plumlee combined for 14 points, and the Nets outscored the Denver Nuggets 24-13 the rest of the way to claim a 102-96 victory at Barclays Center.

[+] EnlargeJohnson & Plumlee
Adam Hunger/USA TODAY SportsJoe Johnson, left, and Mason Plumlee led the Nets' fourth-quarter charge to a second straight win.
Johnson had 27 points, while Plumlee contributed 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks in 40 minutes.

Lopez, who returned following an eight-game absence due to a back injury, came off the bench for the first time since Nov. 12, 2008, and posted six points in eight minutes. Meanwhile, Williams, the subject of rampant trade rumors, missed his second straight game due to a calf injury.
The Nets (11-15) tied their season high with a two-game winning streak, which they have done five times, and improved to 11-2 against sub-.500 teams.

Facing a seven-point deficit with 9:14 remaining, Brooklyn mounted a 19-4 run to take command. Plumlee fueled the burst with a pair of rejections, while Johnson drained a few critical shots.

“Just moving the basketball,” said Johnson, who transitioned over to stretch-four from his usual swingman position. “I thought the pick-and-roll with me, Jarrett Jack and Mason caused them to give up something. It was just great execution on our part.”

By now, you pretty much know the deal: Plumlee has gone from barely playing to thriving in a starting role. In his last seven games, he is averaging 18.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks on 67.5 percent shooting.

“It’s a good feeling, but at the same time it’s something to build on,” Plumlee said. “I’m not where I want to be, but it’s a step in the right direction. It feels good [given where I was], but there’s still a ways to go.”

Lopez said he would be comfortable continuing to come off the bench, and there’s no reason for the Nets to change things up. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

“I’m a coachable guy. I’m team-first. I’m not a selfish guy, so whatever [Nets coach Lionel Hollins] decides we do, as long as it works, I’m all for it,” Lopez said.

Johnson, Plumlee lead Nets past Nuggets, 102-96

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
10:09
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NEW YORK -- Joe Johnson scored 27 points, Mason Plumlee added 19 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, and the Brooklyn Nets rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Denver Nuggets 102-96 on Tuesday night.

Jarrett Jack, who started in place of injured point guard Deron Williams, had 17 points and eight assists. Sergey Karasev added 12 points for the Nets, who won their second straight game and improved to 11-2 against sub-.500 teams.

Ty Lawson led Denver with 29 points and had nine assists. Kenneth Faried chipped in 20 points and 14 boards for the Nuggets, who lost their second straight game and have dropped nine of 12.

Nets center Brook Lopez, who had missed his last eight games due to a lower back strain, played eight minutes and had six points and four rebounds in a reserve role.


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NEW YORK -- On Tuesday night at Barclays Center, the fourth quarter belonged to Joe Johnson and Mason Plumlee.

The duo combined for 14 points in the final period and propelled the Brooklyn Nets to a 102-96 win over the Denver Nuggets.

The Nets (12-15) have won consecutive games and are 11-2 against sub-.500 opponents this season.

Johnson finished with 27 points, while Plumlee added 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.

The Nuggets lost by 28 Monday night in Charlotte and were playing the second game of a back-to-back.

Brook Lopez scored six points in seven minutes in his return to the lineup after missing eight straight games due to a back injury. Deron Williams (calf) did not play for a second straight game.

Player of the game: Plumlee made a massive impact on both ends of the court. He continues to blossom.

Stat of the game:
Lopez came off the bench for the first time since Nov. 12, 2008 -- the seventh game of his NBA career. A reserve over those first seven games, Lopez started the next 351 games in which he played. The Nets outscored their opponent in the second quarter for the first time since Nov. 21.

Play of the game: Kenneth Faried's putback dunk at the end of the first half.

Up next:
The Nets head to Boston to face the Celtics at TD Garden in a rare Friday afternoon contest.

Days of NBA Christmas Past

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
6:10
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A look back through the years at some of the most memorable Christmas games.

Brook Lopez comes off bench in win

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
5:24
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NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez returned to the lineup Tuesday night, scoring six points in eight minutes off the bench in his team's 102-96 victory over the Denver Nuggets at Barclays Center. Lopez had missed the previous eight games due to a strained lower back.

"I felt good out there and I felt like I could've gone longer," Lopez said after the game. "I'm not worried about getting back in shape. I think I'll be all right."

Lopez came off the bench for the first time since Nov. 12, 2008 -- the seventh game of his rookie season. He came off the bench for the first seven games of his career before starting the next 351 games he played in.

"It felt different, but if that's the situation, so be it," said Lopez, who checked into the game for the first time at the start of the second quarter.

Lopez said he would be fine playing a reserve role going forward if it's best for the team. Second-year pro Mason Plumlee is averaging 18.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in his past seven games on 67.5 percent shooting in 35 minutes.

"I'm a coachable guy. I'm team-first. I'm not a selfish guy, so whatever (Nets coach Lionel Hollins) decides we do, as long as it works, I'm all for it," Lopez said.

Nets point guard Deron Williams (strained right calf) missed his second straight game. He is day-to-day.


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Lopez will play whatever role Hollins wants

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
7:29
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- Brook Lopez participated in practice on Monday, but his status remains uncertain for Tuesday’s game against Denver.

Lopez has missed eight straight games with a back injury and still needs to be cleared medically to return to action. But he says his back feels good, and he lobbied to play on Tuesday.

“I was winded out there,” Lopez said after practice. “I feel once when I get back out on the court, it’s gonna come and I’ll be out there playing basketball. I’ve done it all my life. Jump back in and get back into it.”

But will Lopez jump right back into his starting job? Coach Lionel Hollins won’t tip his hand about whom he will start, with Mason Plumlee's emergence in Lopez’s absence.

Plumlee is averaging 18 points and 10.1 rebounds in the past six games.

“It’s gonna work out,” Lopez said of his returning to the mix with the way Plumlee is playing. “We don’t have any selfish guys. We’re not concerned with that, so I’m not worried about that at all.”

“I would do whatever coach does,” Lopez added regarding if he would come off the bench. “I don’t know how he’s gonna do the lineup if I play tomorrow or [at] Boston, whatever. He writes the lineups. I go out there and do whatever I do.”

Sources: Nets, Kings trade talk cools

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
2:58
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Talks between the Sacramento Kings and Brooklyn Nets about a trade involving Nets star Deron Williams have cooled, according to league sources.

Sacramento had recently initiated talks with the Nets, proposing a deal for Williams and second-year forward Mason Plumlee, who was actually the Kings' main target, sources said.

With Plumlee struggling and clashing a bit with new Nets coach Lionel Hollins over the first month of the season, the Kings were hoping he might be available. To compel the Nets into moving Plumlee, they considered taking on Williams, whose contract and history of injuries has scared off many clubs.

Brooklyn, however, has no intention of moving Plumlee, who has surged to average 18 points and 10.2 rebounds over the past six games. With no chance of getting Plumlee, the Kings backed away from Williams.

While talks have slowed, a potential deal for Williams is not completely dead, according to sources. Sacramento was interested in acquiring Rajon Rondo, who was recently traded from Boston to Dallas, so it could remain in the market for a point guard.

One source said he expects talks between the two clubs to continue until the trade deadline in February.

Williams, who has two years and more than $43 million remaining on his contract after this season, has a history with Kings coach Tyrone Corbin, who was an assistant in Utah when Williams enjoyed his finest NBA seasons.


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Brook: 'I'd love to be a wookiee'

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
7:21
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Lopez/ChewbaccaGetty ImagesSci-fi fan Brook Lopez says he has a strong desire to play a Wookiee in the next Star Wars episode.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- Brook Lopez lobbied for two things on Monday.

First, he made it clear that he would like to return from a back injury and be cleared to play on Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets.

The second request, though, is going to be a lot more difficult for the Nets center. Lopez, a huge comic book and sci-fi fan, would love to make a cameo in the latest "Star Wars" episode, “Star Wars: Episode VII -- The Force Awakens”

Lopez even made the perfect suggestion for the character he would play.

“Seriously, though ... I’d like to be a wookiee,” Lopez said after Nets practice. “I’d really like to be a wookiee. They don’t need my ugly face in there. They don’t need me acting. I’m not going to blow anything, guys. Come on, Mr. [George] Lucas. I just want to be in the movie.”

Certainly, the 7-footer has the right size to play the species that produced Han Solo’s sidekick Chewbacca.

“Right? Exactly,” Lopez said in agreement when told he already met the height requirement. “I feel like I could do it, I’m a huge 'Star Wars' fan. I just want to be a part of it. I grew up watching him, and I’d really like to be in the movie. ... I’d love to be a wookiee. I would love to be a wookiee.”

In case you have been living in the remote Hoth system and didn’t know, J.J. Abrams is directing the seventh episode of the 'Star Wars' saga, due to open on Dec. 18, 2015. The first trailer was released recently to the delight of fans worldwide. (Full disclosure: Disney owns both ESPN and Lucas Films, which created the “Star Wars” films.)

“I got chills when I saw the Millennium Falcon,” Lopez said.

So how did we get to talking about "Star Wars" with the Nets’ big man? Lopez has been trying to make his way back from a back injury and participated in practice on Monday. After practice, he was running on an anti-gravity treadmill with a mask on.

So, naturally, Lopez was asked if he felt like one of his favorite superheroes wearing the mask. That’s when the Stanford product gave a smart philosophical breakdown of comic-book villains.

“You guys are searching for the super-villain, right? Bane, right?” Lopez said when asked about wearing the breathing mask. “That’s the one everybody goes to immediately. Not really a hero. He may be a hero in his own mind, but that’s always the philosophical debate about these superheroes and super-villains. He’s the hero in his story. I don’t know. He’s doing what he thinks is right.

“There’s some of these villains that are just crazy and they do it just to do it,” Lopez continued, rattling off his assessment in seconds. “Then you got The Joker, who says he’s an agent of chaos and he comes back in different forms every time, comes back to fight Batman he’s a different character, different guy. Whatever. So I do feel like a superhero when I wear the mask, to answer your question, yes.”

And then the conversation turned to Darth Vader, and that’s how we got to Lopez lobbying to be a wookiee.

“You guys think I’m kidding,” Lopez said. “But I’m not. So let’s do this. Get it going.”

With KG's help, Mason Plumlee a Net gainer

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
10:19
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NEW YORK -- Kevin Garnett does not want any credit for Mason Plumlee’s recent resurgence.

But Jarrett Jack believes the future Hall of Famer deserves plenty.

“To be honest, ‘Mase’ has a factor that always keeps his ears perked up and makes sure that he’s involved in the game: It’s called Kevin Garnett,” Jack said, laughing, after the Nets snapped a three-game losing streak with a 110-105 win over the Detroit Pistons Sunday night at Barclays Center.

“So I think with ‘Ticket’ always being on him and constantly in his ear wanting him to be better, coaching him at all times, and then Mase going out and doing the tough part and actually executing, it’s a weird tandem, but they’ve definitely seemed to work together.”

Plumlee posted 21 points and 12 rebounds. He shot 9-for-10 from the field and added two blocks, two steals and two assists in 33 minutes. In his last six games, he’s averaging 18.0 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in 34.2 minutes on 68.2 percent shooting.

[+] EnlargeMason Plumblee
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty ImagesMason Plumlee soared for 21 points and 12 rebounds in the win over Detroit.
“I think Mason’s starting to understand his strengths versus calling for the ball,” Garnett said. “He’s playing [like] more of a team player, not to say that he wasn’t, but I think he’s leaning on that a little more. We’re looking for him a little more, when he’s in there with me I’m a little more passive trying to make it easy for him and he’s doing a great job at finishing.

“Now, the next step for him is just knocking down free throws and being comfortable with being up there. Coach [Lionel Hollins] has him in the latter part of the game, which is the crucial part, which shows confidence and I think the kid is just growing day by day. But that’s on Mase. Mase has to put that work in, he has to come in and better himself. That’s not on any other player than himself.”

Plumlee, who changed up his free-throw shooting form, taking his left (guide) hand off the ball before he releases it, has gone 7-for-10 from the stripe in his last two games. With 1:16 remaining Sunday night, he swished a pair to give the Nets a 104-98 lead.

Said Plumlee: “It felt great. Coach probably didn’t like me holding the ball, but I wanted it so there’s no better confidence builder than to hit some down the stretch. Those are big.”

Brooklyn (11-15) led by 15 with 5:31 left, but was outscored by Detroit (5-23), 22-12 the rest of the way. Twice the Pistons had chances to tie if they hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds. Twice the Pistons took terrible shots. Twice they missed, only hitting the rim once.

Still, in spite of all their woes, Plumlee remains one of the team’s few bright spots. If he keeps being this consistent, he’s going to be a valuable young piece for the franchise moving forward.

“Every night’s a new challenge, new personnel, and I get excited about each matchup,” Plumlee said. “So you prepare for it, and you get excited about it, and for me, that’s where the consistency is -- just getting excited to go out there and play each night.”

Over the last six games, the Nets have posted a 110.2 offensive rating and a 100.3 defensive rating with Plumlee on the court. Hollins is going to have a decision to make when Brook Lopez returns from his back injury, but the Nets coach doesn’t want to think about it right now. It does seem like a good problem to have, after all.

“When Brook comes back, I told you I’ll deal with it,” Hollins said. “I’m not dealing with it right now. I’m just coaching the guys that are out there playing, and that’s what I’m gonna do.”

Nets 110, Pistons 105: Holding on, barely

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
8:34
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NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets coach Lionel Hollins continues to say that his team isn’t very good. And he’s right.

The Nets nearly blew a 15-point lead with 5:31 left against the 5-22 Detroit Pistons at Barclays Center, but managed to hold on for a 110-105 win Sunday night. The Pistons had two chances to tie the game with 3-pointers. They hit the rim on one of them.

The Nets (11-15) somehow improved to 10-2 against sub-.500 teams. They even snapped a three-game losing streak in the process.

Deron Williams (calf) and Brook Lopez (back) both missed the game and are considered day-to-day.

Player of the game: Mason Plumlee had his fourth double-double of the season: 21 points and 12 rebounds. He added two assists, two blocks and two steals.

Stat of the game: The Nets, 29th in offensive efficiency since Nov. 12, shot 52 percent from the field and had 29 assists. Andre Drummond had 20 rebounds (13 offensive) in 28 minutes. The Nets had three offensive rebounds as a team.

Play of the game: During one sequence in the first half, Mason Plumlee made a fine defensive play on one end and converted an alley-oop dunk on the other end.

Up next: The Nets face the Denver Nuggets Tuesday night at home.

Plumlee, Nets hold off Pistons, 110-105

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
8:57
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NEW YORK -- Mason Plumlee scored 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and the Brooklyn Nets held off a late rally for a 110-105 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.

Joe Johnson added 16 points, including four free throws in the final 12 seconds.

Mirza Teletovic's layup with 5:31 remaining gave the Nets a 98-83 lead, their largest of the game. But Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who scored 20 points, completed a furious run by hitting a 3-pointer with 9 seconds left to bring Detroit within 106-105 before the Nets held on with free throws.

Jarrett Jack, who started in place of the injured Deron Williams, finished with 15 points and 10 assists for Brooklyn.

Plumlee shot 9 of 10 from the field and had 12 rebounds.

Detroit's Andre Drummond finished with 18 points and 20 rebounds.


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SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Joe Johnson
PTS AST STL MIN
16.7 3.8 1.0 34.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsK. Garnett 8.0
AssistsD. Williams 6.8
StealsD. Williams 1.1
BlocksB. Lopez 1.6