By Larry Fleisher
Brook Lopez has experienced very little success in the 12 times he has faced Dwight Howard. His only win came late in his rookie season when he had a double-double while Howard scored seven in a 10-point victory.
Lopez will have to until next season to go for his second victory against Howard, who will miss his third straight game Tuesday night with a sore right shoulder. Howard aggravated his partially torn labrum in last Wednesday’s win at Phoenix and is taking a cautious approach to returning.
“I’m in no rush,” Howard said after the Lakers’ morning shootaround at the New York Athletic Club. “[I] don’t want to re-injure it, so [I] got to make sure it heals up.”
Howard was asked if he was looking forward to seeing Brooklyn, which was he has said was his preferred choice of destinations.
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“I’m looking forward to our team coming out and having another good game,” Howard said. “That’s the biggest thing. We need another win. We’re playing against a good team and it’s gonna be a challenge.”
Lopez also won’t have to deal with Metta World Peace. The forward formerly known as Ron Artest was handed a one-game suspension for getting tangled up with Detroit’s Brandon Knight on Sunday.
The former St. John’s standout and Queens native was handed his 15th career suspension.
D’Antoni likes Laker body language
The situation is not perfect, especially with Pau Gasol telling the Los Angeles Times he was not happy when head coach Mike D’Antoni benched in the fourth quarter of games. Even with that as a storyline, the former Knicks coach is seeing better things from his team that has not had a winning record since it was 6-5 after beating the Nets on Nov 20.
The Lakers have won five of their last six games since a four-game losing streak Jan. 17-23 dropped them to 17-25. In those games, the team has averaged 26.7 assists and shot 48 percent from the field.
Besides the fact that the Lakers are winning, the high number of assists also has D’Antoni believing the team may have found what it was missing for most of the season after having many players used to being the top scoring option.
“Learning how to play with each other and everybody accepting their roles and everybody being comfortable with their roles,” D’Antoni said. “Because it changes when you have a bunch of guys that are used to being the No. 1 guy and everyone’s got to get used to it.
“When you start playing well and the ball starts moving and you can just see their faces and their body language and when that happens it usually turns into wins.”
The most noteworthy number in Los Angeles’s current six-game string of success is the 10.2 assists per game Kobe Bryant is contributing. Bryant began this stretch with three straight double-figure assist games, has not scored over 21 points in any game and he said after the shootaround that this is probably the most optimistic he has felt about the team all year.
Bryant also said he has been getting treatment for a sprained right elbow, but will play Wednesday night.
The Nets also may be somewhat shorthanded tonight.
C.J. Watson (sprained left ankle) is probable and Marshon Brooks (sprained right ankle) is questionable with sprained ankles while Jerry Stackhouse (stiff neck) and Andray Blatche (illness) are game-time decisions.
Watson and Stackhouse were held out of Monday’s practice while Brooks injured his ankle in practice. Blatche was kept out of the morning shootaround at the team’s practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.