Jarrett Allen’s emphatic rejection on Brook Lopez with 5:04 left in Friday’s game may have, at the time, looked like a symbolic inflection point for the Brooklyn Nets. You know, out with the old and in with the new …
Did Jarrett Allen just officially replace Brook Lopez? pic.twitter.com/2Ki3yvA5Fj— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) February 3, 2018
… Then, a minute later, Lopez reminded fans a minute later that, oh yes, he still has it.
It was weird and wonderful. A changing of the guard, but not really.
Brook Lopez, loveable big man, unassuming All-Star, Star Wars junkie and comic book savant was back, playing against the organization he called home for nine years. From 2008-to-2012 it was New Jersey, and from ’12 until last June, it was Brooklyn.
Jarrett Allen, effectively his replacement, was selected in June in the NBA Draft to be the proverbial heir to the suddenly vacant Nets big man throne.
On Friday, they faced each other at great length, and it was magical, or, for the sake of continuing the Lopez theme, Disney-like.
But before Lopez and Allen even took the floor, they had to enter the arena. For Allen, it may have been just another day, but for Lopez, it was like returning home, because it was.
”It was weird walking here, even taking the bus,” said Lopez to a packed media scrum prior to tip-off. “Coming from the hotel we drove right by my place on Dean Street, and obviously coming down the elevator and everything, it was very bizarre.
“It was great seeing so many familiar faces, so many great friends, I had so many fantastic relationships and memories here.”
Thankfully, he went into the correct locker room, although, some Net fans may prefer he did not.
“It was such a conscious effort, walking from the bus to the locker room,” he said smiling. “I would’ve automatically kept walking down to the home locker room. I had to keep telling myself every step to go the right way.”
As for the game itself, Allen gained the upper hand early on, overshadowing Lopez by tying a career-best 16 points, a total he also recorded a couple of days earlier, in 11 minutes on only six shot attempts in the first quarter.
Lopez knew he had to respond and did, scoring six third quarter points within a two-minute span, after only netting five points all first half. Less than two minutes later, with 3:58 to go, Lopez drained a 3-pointer, his second of the game, and hit a second one 32 seconds later, from 31-feet out, forcing a Net timeout and stirring all sorts of memories in the Brooklyn faithful.
After the 12-point third stanza from Lopez, Allen, who didn’t score at all in the third got back on the board with a dunk with 5:18 remaining, and again with 3:31 left, reaching 20 points for the first time as NBA player.
Though the Nets had a chance to win late, Lopez essentially netted the dagger with 1:28 to go, putting the Lakers up by four, 101-97. The game ended 102-99.
For Lopez, who scored 19 on 8-of-13 shooting and 3-of-5 from deep in 28 minutes — while also blocking 3 shots — it was exciting, and a little weird, but once he got into it, it was like being back at home.
And really, judging by the crowd’s reaction after the end of first quarter video tribute, how could it not be?
“It was cool coming back seeing the fans and I appreciate them so much so it was great to see that and just so many people, so many teammates,” he said, seemingly in awe of his own homecoming.
“It was great. It was such an awesome moment. That’s the kind of stuff you dream about as a kid and to see that kind of support from both Laker and Nets fans it’s really awe-inspiring. It’s such a fantastic moment. I can’t thank them enough for the continued support.”
For Allen, he wouldn’t say he’s replacing Lopez, so his career-night, which came in only his third start, serves as a benchmark performance, and perhaps a sign of things to come.
“I wouldn’t call it replacing Brook, Brook is one of a kind that I hear. I mean, he has stuff, I have stuff, and I’m just trying to see where I’m at against him,” he said. “(He was the) face of the franchise, now I’m here trying to become the face, too, so just going back and forth. It was a good challenge.”
A moment, if not a change.
And for Lopez, one of greatest Nets ever, around the actual match-up were other moments of reflection, appreciation and gratitude from the fans, the organization.
There were the 10,444 points as a Net, the most of all-time, an All-Star appearance — a rarity in itself for the black-and-white, and nearly a decade long run as a franchise cornerstone.
He saw it all, nine coaches, three GM’s 100 teammates, and in the face of every up and down while in New Jersey, and later Brooklyn, Lopez says that his time as a Net meant everything to him. Judging by the smile he delivered his message, he either genuinely believes it, or he’s moved from wanting to be a Wookie to wanting to be The Joker.
After all, he is in Hollywood now.
”For nine whole years it was everything to me,” he said, humbly. “I relished being here, I relished being a Net, and again, there were so many positive moments being here and being on the outside now I want to see the franchise continue to grow as a basketball franchise and I want to see it reach great heights.”
Brook now, Brook forever.