Brook Lopez makes homecoming as Nets go for two straight

Photo courtesy YES Network

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Watch: YES Network, FOX Sports GO

Location: Barclays Center

Listen: WFAN 101.9, 660 AM

Photo courtesy YES Network

The Brooklyn Nets are on a high after a morale-boosting 116-108 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday. The Nets ended a four-game losing streak and picked up their first victory against a team in the Atlantic division after starting 0-9.

D’Angelo Russell had his best game since returning from injury, dropping 22 points in 16 minutes, and the team got handy contributions from Spencer Dinwiddie (27 points) and a career-high-tying 16 from new-found starter Jarrett Allen. This enabled the Nets to cover the continued loss of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert due to groin injuries.

For Friday’s matchup, Hollis-Jefferson has been ruled out but LeVert is probable to return as the Nets face the Los Angeles Lakers at home. After winning four straight, the Lakers have lost their last two games in ugly fashion, falling by 12 and 22 to the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic, respectively.

The Lakers are 19-31 and continue to have unanswered questions about the future make-up of the team as it pushes toward the end of the season. Currently, the Lakers are tinkering with their line-up and starting Julius Randle in a move seemingly designed to increase his trade value. He has responded according, averaging 17.4 points and 8.0 rebounds over the last 15 days.

This has also coincided with Brook Lopez’s role becoming severely diminished, as the Lakers have been opting to roll out small-ball line-ups that include Larry Nance Jr. and Kyle Kuzma, with each receiving close to 25 minutes off the bench. This can provide some issues for the Brooklyn Nets defensively with Hollis-Jefferson out, so the Nets may lean on wing rotation players like DeMarre Carroll and Allen Crabbe a bit more on that end of the court.

Three Things to Watch

A Brook Lopez homecoming

There have not been many Nets players worthy of a video tribute upon their return over the past few years, but Lopez is an exception. The all-time Nets leading scorer returns to Brooklyn for the first time since being traded over the summer and should be announced to loud cheers from the home crowd.

With the highlight reel awaiting, the fans will have an opportunity to say their thanks to the nine-year Net. Lopez has not reached the statistical heights of his past this season with the Lakers (and we are not going to point any fingers), but he did torch the Nets for 34 points in their first matchup of the year…so keep an eye on him if he does get the green light.

Center rotation

Kenny Atkinson has admitted that Allen forced his hands somewhat in placing him in the starting line-up due to his encouraging play. He has immediately rewarded this move as one of the Nets better players in the loss to the Knicks on Tuesday and with a double-double against the 76ers.

This move seemingly has coincided with Jahlil Okafor getting more minutes, at the expense of both Tyler Zeller and Quincy Acy, and has been encouraging in moments. Moving forward, there is a possibility the minute spread among these four players may fluctuate, with the Nets still finding out how Allen and Okafor fit into Brooklyn’s future.

Joe Harris

His name has been floated around as a trade candidate as the deadline approaches on Feb. 8. This is mostly due to his outstanding play and contract situation (on minimum salary and an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season).

While the word from Harris’ agent is that he is not being shopped, there is nothing that should surprise at this stage. A true professional, expect Joey Buckets to continue doing his thing, but if he keeps outplaying his contract the drum beat may get louder.