Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo had labeled his handling of Brook Lopez’s minutes in the fourth quarter since the All-Star break as “something he probably shouldn’t do.” Yet, on Sunday when the Nets were missing Joe Johnson (sore left heel) for a second straight game, that plan remained in place.
“I created the situation and it’s not a good situation,” Carlesimo said after practice Monday before the team headed to New Orleans. “So yes, I worry about it that I need to address it and I worry about it that I need to watch what I do going forward.”
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Lopez sat for the entire fourth quarter in last Tuesday’s overtime win over Milwaukee and again Wednesday. After playing six minutes in the fourth quarter, but scoring just two of his 27 points in Friday’s 10-point loss to Houston, Lopez was glued to the bench again Sunday.
Lopez was 13-of-21 from the field in Friday’s game, but in the other three games he is shooting 12-of-40.
While Lopez struggles with his shot, those minutes have mostly gone to Andray Blatche. Blatche averaged eight points per game before the break but is shooting 18-of-33 and has grabbed 26 rebounds — six more than Lopez — in that stretch.
“You’d go crazy with the ‘what ifs’ and everything — run the play properly, what if our shots had gone down and theirs hadn’t,” Lopez said. “I mean there’s a million possibilities. And Dray is just as good a center offensively as I am and he’s perfectly capable of scoring.”
One possibility is pairing Lopez and Blatche together, which happened in the second quarter against Miami on Jan. 30.
“I definitely think that would be a great possibility,” Lopez said. “I’ve enjoyed the time we’ve played together. I think we play well with each other.”
“That was something that after the game was over last night, we got squeezed by Mirza [Teletovic],” Carlesimo said. “Mirza went in and played well and going into the last time when we went down to play them, it was something that we were going to look at and Hump played well. Reggie played well in the second half and we never got to it. Last night going into the game, it was something that we thought we would do and didn't and that's close to an ideal thing to do that we didn't.”
Lopez’s nonexistent playing time in the fourth quarter Sunday led to him not talking to the media afterward, though he was hardly alone in that. Lopez seemed unsure of the postgame events when he explained himself Monday.
“I have no idea, honestly because Dray and I we’re usually the first ones out anyway. We dress quick and then we do our media and then we’re out anyway. So I didn’t know everyone else left.”
Williams expects to play Tuesday
Point guard Deron Williams gave the thumbs up when asked about his bruised left calf and said he expects to play Tuesday.
Williams appeared to injure the calf on his drive late in Sunday’s game that was partially blocked by Tony Allen and did not generate a foul call.
“I feel better,” Williams said. “I feel like the break helped and the shots helped and it’s been a positive effect, and hopefully it continues to get better.”
Williams had his third round of cortisone injections in his ankles last Thursday and has had mixed results. He shot 5-of-17 Friday while settling for mostly jumpers, and then went 9-of-14 while attempting to be more aggressive Sunday.
“It’s not like I haven’t wanted to be aggressive, it’s just like my ankles wear down quarter by quarter and toward the end of the game, it’s like I have no lift,” Williams said. “That was the main thing, the first half of the season, was just that I’d push the ball the first quarter, the second quarter a little bit, the third quarter not much and the fourth quarter, it’s hard to. Now that they’re feeling better, I’m just gonna try to keep attacking and keep the pressure on.”
Johnson questionable for Tuesday
Carlesimo said he was encouraged by Joe Johnson’s shooting in practice but was not quite ready to say if his second-leading scorer would suit up Tuesday. The team officially said he is questionable with a sore left heel.
“I think we probably won't know until tomorrow, but I was encouraged,” Carlesimo said. “He's not jumping up and down but he's moving around. He also did some dribble-move shots, certainly less than 100 percent, but I thought it went well. A lot of it is with a bruise is it going to flare up tonight or is going to flare up tomorrow? He may say it feels really good but he may not be able to get out of bed tomorrow morning. But I think we were encouraged by how Joe looked.”
Johnson has missed the last two games with the injury that initially flared up shortly before the All-Star break and the last thing he wants to do is return too early and make it worse.
“If I come back too soon maybe it could get worse,” Johnson said. “This is not something that I want to linger over to the postseason so we’re just trying to take care of it now.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.