Nets Notebook: Shaq calls Brook Lopez ‘one or two’ best center in NBA

Shaquille O'Neal was in New York on Monday promoting his new jewelry line.

Brook Lopez is among the two best centers in the NBA, so says Shaquille O’Neal, somewhat of an authority on premier post men.

“I like the way he’s playing,” O’Neal said Monday morning during an event at the Zales Jewelers on 417 5th Avenue to promote the future Hall of Famer’s new line of jewelry. O’Neal worked with Zales, who was represented at the launch by CEO Theo Killion, to produce jewelry for men that was both “classy” and “affordable.”

“You can see he’s been working on his moves,” O’Neal said of Lopez, lauding the Nets center’s improvement on the low block. “He’s doing both like [San Antonio Spurs power forward] Tim Duncan. He’s worked on his craft. He’s had some big games.”

Lopez is averaging 19 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 30.1 minutes per game.

O’Neal retired from the NBA following an 18-year career that saw him play for the Magic, Lakers, Heat, Suns, Cavs and Celtics. He averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in 1,207 games. He was a key component on the 2000-2002 three-peat Lakers and the 2006 Heat championship team.

He now works for TNT as an analyst, and has had preliminary talks with the league about bringing a franchise back to Newark. The Nets played the last two seasons at the Prudential Center while waiting the completion of the Barclays Center.

“[I] haven’t had [formal] discussions. Right now there are a couple teams who are unhappy [with their arena situations]. When the time is right [we’ll talk],” O’Neal said.  

Borough battle, round 1

Monday night’s Knicks-Nets showdown was the first as intracity rivals.

As such, it generated an incredible amount of anticipation. For everyone but Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, that is.

“[The game] is important for our team because it is the next game on the schedule. This is an important game for us,” Woodson said. “It’s our schedule.”

Both teams entered the game with winning records. The Knicks lead the Atlantic Division with a 9-3 mark, while the Nets are one game behind at 8-4. And even with 70 games remaining in the season, Woodson believes the Nets will be a team the Knicks will have to contend with.

“They’re going to be there,” Woodson said. “[It’s] going to be a dogfight to the end.”

The trip to Brooklyn was the first for Woodson.

But there was one area in which he was exceedingly familiar: Nets off-guard Joe Johnson.

“[I] coached Joe for five, six years [with the Hawks]. He’s a load. He’s worthy to be an all-star. He does it easy,” Woodson said. “[The Nets backcourt is a] big problem. They cause a lot of problems for a lot of teams.”

Follow Nets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.


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