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Brook Lopez played down the stretch of last night's Nets victory in New Orleans, but he was conspicuously absent a few games before that.

The Nets are beginning a very tough stretch where they will play 12 of their next 16 games on the road. The team will need to be firing on all cynlinders, especially with Joe Johnson being limited.

Now, quite a few are wondering what's behind P.J. Carlesimo's benching of Brook Lopez and may even be wondering if there's something more going on here.

From Howard Megdal of Capital New York

The Nets had a single all-star representative: Brook Lopez, who is playing as well as any center in the league this season. Yet in the team's first game back, a 113-111 overtime win over the Bucks, Lopez didn't play in the fourth quarter, and was, perhaps relatedly, rusty when called upon in overtime.

The following night, Lopez again didn't play in the fourth, despite a respectable first three quarters. He played less than half the fourth quarter against Houston in a loss to the Rockets, not at all in the fourth in a loss to Memphis.

Lopez wasn't suffering from any injuries, but the somewhat fragile center, who'd only dominated this season once he'd managed to gain confidence, seemed more tentative when he was on the court. Considering that Deron Williams is battling through a multitude of injuries, Joe Johnson is currently sidelined with an injury, and Lopez has been one of the most efficient scorers on any team, this was an odd development.

Megdal makes good points in this piece. The only thing we'd focus on a bit more is the fact that Lopez didn't exactly light it up in the games in which he sat. As outlined by John Paolantonio, there were some pretty valid reasons for benching Lopez.

But that being said, Lopez has been the Nets most consistent player all season long and he's still a relatively young player. After helping the Nets stay relevant and earning an all-star berth, one would probably rightfully expect that Lopez would have had a longer leash.

Agreed, it's not like he lost his starting job, but a lot of players feel as though who finishes games is more important than who starts, so to Lopez, maybe not playing in some key fourth quarters may have hurt. At this point,  we should probably just focus on the positive—Lopez hasn't complained one bit over his lack of playing time, and that bodes well for team chemistry and gives insight as to how much of a team player he really is.

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Tags: blog , Moke Hamilton
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