Brook Lopez is back in Brooklyn.
Naturally, Kenny Atkinson opened his pre-game presser praising Lopez.
“He was great for us,” Atkinson remarked of Lopez, having coached him in his final season with the Nets last year. “Heck of a player, skilled, great guy, he’s an all-time Net, it’s tough to see him go. We miss him.”
As to whether or not tonight means anything extra for Lopez or former Los Angeles Laker D’Angelo Russell, knowing they’ve already played their old teams once this season, Atkinson says that it should, and it makes the game itself more appealing.
“Obviously it meant something to Brook that first game, he absolutely destroyed us,” joked Atkinson. “He had 34 points and played great. I do think the second game is a little different. They’ve both been through it, I know both those players. We’re talking about Brook;
“They both have a lot of pride. Players, they always want to play well against their ex-teams, I think we’ve all seen that. So yeah, I think it adds more interest to the game. More intrigue, more fun. But I think once that balls thrown up, they’ll settle in, they’re both excellent players, it should be a good battle.”
Regarding Russell’s conditioning just two days after dropping 22 points in 16 minutes Wednesday, Atkinson says that his prized guard is heading in the right direction.
“Definitely took a step, feels better,” he said. “You know, it’s always that next day. Yesterday he felt great, went through shootaround this morning and felt great, it’s all pointing towards increased minutes but again, we’re not going to all the sudden shoot up to a bigger number, but I think we have more minutes to play with.
“I think understanding his minutes and where he is and his progress, that’s part of the decision making when we do our line-ups,” he added, discussing whether or not he’d start in the near future.
”That’s just the truth – as he builds up, line-ups can change, it can definitely change, but where we are right now, we’re in a good position.”