Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.comNEW YORK — Before the Nets did battle with the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night at Barclays Center, head coach Keith Smart made some observations about center Brook Lopez.
Since returning from a minor foot injury earlier this season, Lopez has picked up where he left off and has been instrumental in helping interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo get off to a 4-1 start since the club fired Avery Johnson back on Dec. 27.
Smart admitted that one of the Kings keys to victory will be finding a way to slow Lopez down.
"He has developed like a lot of guys in our league," Smart said. "Sometimes, we want those guys to play right away because they're big, but they still have to mature into their bodies and mature into the NBA game. One thing for all players, rookies, big guys, they have to learn how to play fast but slow and I think his game has slowed down a great deal."
There have been some questions as to how the Nets Big Three can co-exist since Deron Williams has excelled playing faster than Joe Johnson and Lopez have been accustomed to. Those questions have temporarily been put to rest since the trio has played better recently.
On Jan. 2, the club turned in a spirited effort and defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in a tough road game. Johnson scored a season-high 33 points and made big shots down the stretch. Lopez chipped in 25 points and Williams turned in a solid effort, scoring 19 points of his own while dishing out 13 assists and even recording five steals.
In Friday night's double-overtime victory over the Washington Wizards, the trio scored 69 points and grabbed 22 rebounds. Williams also turned in 10 assists and Lopez had three blocks. So, the concerns about their chemistry may fade with a few more victories.
Smart has taken note of Lopez's increased productivity and thinks the young big man is evolving as a pro player.
"There's a couple of moves that he had while I watched him getting ready for this game where he caught it on the post and he was so patient and kinda did some face ups," he said.
"A couple years ago, he would have taken that and tried to drive right over somebody. So the evolution of slowing down as a pro player as a big man, that's when you become quicker with your moves. Obviously, he's doing some of those things."
Behind Lopez, the Nets have gotten off to a strong start in 2013. The club hopes it will continue with a victory tonight.