NEW YORK (WFAN) — He may not be Dwight Howard, but the Nets are ready to begin their inaugural season at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center with one of the league’s best young centers.
The team held a press conference Wednesday to announce the re-signing of Brook Lopez to a four-year, $60 million max deal. Lopez joined WFAN’s Evan Roberts afterward, and let’s just say he’s thrilled to be back.
“I’m just really excited to get out there and prove to people that I can be an important part of this team — and help them win a lot of games,” Lopez said.
LISTEN: Lopez with Roberts
Lopez, limited to just five games last season with foot problems, admitted it was “tough” watching his team from the sideline.
“I don’t think there’s really any restrictions,” Lopez said of his rehab. “I haven’t played any 5-on-5 really or done any competitive things, but I’ve been jumping, dunking, running, doing all that stuff.”
Though he averaged a career-high 20.4 points in 2010-11, the 24-year-old’s rebounds declined to six per game from 8.6 the season prior. The 24-year-old said it was “probably just a lack of focus in that area.”
“I really need to sit down and focus on doing that again,” said Lopez. “I don’t really have a number. I just want to do my best.”
Lopez was reported to be at the center of Brookyn’s trade talks with Orlando for Howard. Returning to the Nets was his first option, and Lopez couldn’t say whether he would have agreed to a sign-and-trade with the Magic.
The speculation could heat up again in mid-January when Lopez becomes trade eligible, assuming Howard is still disgruntled and in Orlando.
“I hope that I’ll prove myself enough on the court to render those trade rumors moot,” Lopez said.
So instead of Howard, the Nets will have Lopez at the center of a formidable starting lineup when they tip off for the first time in Brooklyn. Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries are all back with the franchise, which made a splash this offseason with the acquisition of guard Joe Johnson from Atlanta.
It may even be enough to pry some casual fans from the other team in town.
“Look, I’ve gotta say the Nets are better than the Knicks,” said Lopez. “Only because there’s not a single player on the Knicks who would say we’re better than them. And that’s the way it should be.”
Speaking of the Knicks, how about Jeremy Lin taking his game to the Rockets?
“It is what it is. It doesn’t really affect me too much,” said Lopez. “I think he’s a great player, I think he’ll do well in Houston. I guess it’ll be nice that Houston gets some Linsanity now.”
Will Brook make Nets fans forget about the Howard dream? Be heard in the comments below…