The Confounding Case of Brook Lopez

Lopez's benching baffles on multiple levels

By Josh Alper
|  Tuesday, Feb 26, 2013  |  Updated 9:26 AM EDT
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The records are close, the season series was a split and good people can disagree on whether the Nets or Knicks are the better team, but the last week made it very clear that the Nets still rank a distant second in the pecking order. 

Imagine for a moment that the Knicks returned from the All-Star break and sat Carmelo Anthony (or Tyson Chandler or J.R. Smith or even Raymond Felton) on the bench for the entire fourth quarter in three of their first four games. Do you think that's the sort of thing that would go largely ignored? 

Not likely, but that's pretty much what's happened with Brook Lopez and the Nets over the last week. Lopez has been reduced to towel-waver by P.J. Carlesimo and there's been a collective shrug from the masses even though Lopez was a member of the All-Star team last week and the most consistent member of the Nets all season. 

The fact that there was no outcry of anger toward Lopez, Carlesimo or anyone else in the wake of Sunday's 76-72 loss to the Grizzlies (that also saw Gerald Wallace benched for the fourth) is a sign that the Nets are still more novelty than team people are taking seriously.

Joe Johnson was hurt, Deron Williams was going it alone on two bad legs and a free pass was given in a home loss that the Nets really should have won. 

No reaction from the public is one thing, but it's even stranger that there has been no response from Lopez whatsoever. Call him a good teammate for supporting Andray Blatche if you like, but it isn't all that inspiring to hear one of your team's best players be perfectly fine with other people deciding who wins and loses games for the team.

If you think you're better with Blatche, go ahead and play him. The numbers say otherwise, as the Nets outscore the opposition by two points per 100 possessions with Lopez and get outscored by three points when he's on the bench, and so does the coach. 

On Monday, Carlesimo addressed the decision and said it was one he doesn't want to make in the future. He also said he doesn't worry about Lopez holding a grudge

"This situation, I created the situation and it's not a good situation," Carlesimo said. "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. I don't worry about it that Brook will let it bother him or Brook will hold a grudge or anything like that."

It should bother him and it should probably infuriate him that the Nets think they have five better players than Lopez when Johnson is injured. And, frankly, it should worry Carlesimo, who has been around plenty of great players, and the rest of the Nets brass that their highly paid and highly talented center doesn't care about not playing in the crucial moments of a game. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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