As D12 Rumors Begin Anew, A Different Lopez Remains Confident

Josh Newman, SNYNets.com

Brook Lopez

Brook Lopez spent much of last year hearing about and dealing with constant trade rumors involving himself and Dwight Howard. With a New York Daily News report on Monday morning indicating Howard may not be happy with Los Angeles Lakers, Lopez is about to hear those trade rumors again.

Citing a league source, the Daily News wrote that Howard and Kobe Bryant got into a heated exchange following a New Year’s Day loss at the Philadelphia 76ers. Bryant reportedly went for a low blow, referencing and agreeing with ex-teammate turned TNT analyst, Shauqille O’Neal, who criticized Howard as being soft.

With that story and the fact that Howard is set to be a free agent this summer, the rumors of Howard coming to Brooklyn have re-ignited.

While the NBA’s trade deadline is Feb. 21, Lopez cannot be traded until Jan. 15 after signing a four-year, $61 million deal with the Nets over the summer. That deal was only offered to Lopez after it became clear that the Nets would be unable to pry Howard away from the Orlando Magic and new General Manager Rob Hennigan. Nets General Manager Billy King had floated Lopez out there as the centerpiece in any deal that would bring Howard to the Nets.

“It is what it is,” Lopez told reporters at practice on Monday afternoon regarding any trade rumors. “I’ve said how I’ve dealt with it before. Even when this was a non-issue for the months or whatever the season has gone on, I didn’t read any of the media stuff that anyone put out.”

There’s a big difference between Lopez now and Lopez during last season when the Howard rumors really picked up steam. Lopez missed all but five games last season thanks to a fractured right foot. This season, despite missing seven games with a sprained right foot, the 7-footer is playing his best basketball of the season right now and will be in contention for a spot on the All-Star team.

Since interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo took over for the fired Avery Johnson, Lopez is averaging 23.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocks while shooting 58.1percent from the field and 83.7 percent from the line as the Nets have won five of six under Carlesimo. He has recorded three consecutive 20-point, 10-rebound games and is averaging 18.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. He is the only player in the NBA averaging 18-7-2 this season.

With numbers like that, highlighted by this recent six-game stretch, Lopez is full of confidence. That is one of the biggest differences between this year and last year, when he sat out injured and unsure of his future as his own free agency loomed.

“I just think he’s confident,” Deron Williams said of Lopez. “He’s not looking over his shoulder every five minutes thinking he’s going to get traded, which definitely will help as far as his focus and him mentally being ready to play. I think he’s just being so aggressive on both ends and that’s something that we love to see.”

The Nets, a perfect 12-0 this season against teams with sub-.500 records, will look to make it 6-1 under Carlesimo on Tuesday evening at the 15-20 Philadelphia 76ers. In the only meeting this season between the two clubs back on Dec. 23, Lopez scored 14 points and hauled in seven rebounds in a 95-92 Nets win at Barclays Center.

That was the lone victory in a 1-5 stretch from Dec. 15-26 that helped lead to Johnson’s firing on Dec. 27.

Wallace, Stackhouse miss practice

Gerald Wallace (recovery day) and Jerry Stackhouse (personal reason) both missed practice on Monday at the PNY Center in East Rutherford. However, both are expected to be available in Philadelphia tomorrow.

Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA