Three hours before his first real game action in over 10 months, Brook Lopez was hoisting mid-range jumpers inside a quiet Barclays Center rehearsing for the impending home opener. If he had any type of nerves it was not evident as one jumper after another came out of his hands.
About two hours before the opening tip, coach Lionel Hollins joked that if Lopez started to look “like his tongue is out, I got to take him out. He’ll trip.”
Lopez did not trip.
Instead he eased himself back into meaningful game action with a highlight-reel, one-handed jam off a nifty feed from Kevin Garnett late in the first half as the Nets coasted to a 116-85 victory over the Thunder.
“I was excited to see him moving so well, blocking shots,” Hollins said. “I thought he was a little sluggish early but I kept playing him. I wanted to play him so he could get a rhythm. It worked out fine.”
It worked out fine for Lopez, who was 6-for-10 from the field for 18 points. He missed his first three shots, but the dunk began a stretch of six straight buckets.
“I was surprised,” Lopez said. “I thought it would have been a lot tougher than it was. I felt really good out there. I was glad to be back playing. I can’t put it into words. I missed being out there big time.”
“I could see how antsy he was to be out there,” Joe Johnson said. “I know he was a little frustrated, so I was glad he got that dunk to get him going.”
Lopez stated on Sunday his long-awaited return from an injured foot was like being a kid on Christmas. He was hoping to return in the season opener last Wednesday in Boston but a preseason foot sprain delayed his debut.
The man with four foot surgeries delivered a steady performance in a 23-minute stint that was limited due to early foul trouble and the fact the Nets led by double figures over the final 40-plus minutes. But when Lopez was out there, he served as the primary inside threat on a night that went perfectly for the Nets.
“It was big,” point guard Deron Williams said. “We’re definitely happy to have Brook back in the lineup playing well. I thought he played well. He didn’t miss a beat and played well defensively.”
Granted, the Nets did not have to face Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant but that’s not something they can be concerned about. Instead they have to worry about taking care of their own affairs.
“We were fantastic out there,” Lopez said. “We were great defensively and there were really no lulls. We moved the ball around offensively and got what we wanted. We couldn’t have started off a better way at home.”
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.