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Brook Lopez "far ahead" of where Nets thought he would be

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Danny La-USA TODAY Sports

Buried in the praise for Brook Lopez's game so far this season was this comment from Paul Westphal, the Nets lead assistant who filled in for an ill Lionel Hollins vs. the Kings in Shanghai.

"I think Brook is getting himself in shape," Westphal told Lenn Robbins. "He’s far ahead of where we were afraid of where he was going to be. He’s getting his timing."

The numbers seem to back up what Westphal ... as does the eye test. He looks like the same Brook Lopez he was before he went under the knife in January, then again in March. He's averaging 19 points in the two preseason games, shooting 56 percent from the floor and 83.3 percent from the line. He is averaging only 5.5 rebounds, but he hasn't played more than 25 minutes in either of the Nets two games.

"He’s been the dominant low-post presence that we’ve missed," Joe Johnson said in a conference call after the team landed in Beijing later Sunday. "He’s trying to fine-tune himself. We just look forward to everyone improving and getting better everyday."

His defense didn't get a lot of attention but DeMarcus Cousins had only nine points. As Mike Mazzeo wrote, "In the first quarter, Lopez stayed with a driving Cousins before blocking the Kings center’s shot."

For his part, Lopez praised the Nets hiring of Hollins after the game.

"He’s been a successful head coach and he knows what he wants," said Lopez. "He wants his players to get better. That’s what happened in Memphis and I think that can happen here. Hiring him was the right decision."

There appears no problem, no minutes restriction on the 7-footer right foot or left ankle, both of which were subject of major surgery, in January 4 (foot reconstruction) and March 3 (ankle ligament "tightening"). Lenn Robbins reported that Lopez went back to the locker room in the third quarter to get some"ice" but returned in time for game's end. No further details.

As for the toughness factor, we haven't heard anything on that since before the Nets landed in China. One thing you may hear about as Hollins gets better, Lopez's unwillingness to pass.