You could forgive Brooklyn Nets' center Brook Lopez if he felt a little bit like a ping pong ball recently. Lopez had been dangled by the Nets in trade talks for Dwight Howard for what seemed like an eternity, had gone through a summer of free agency and has now returned to the Nets -- where he has to know he was the franchise's backup plan if it failed to acquire Howard.
Now that the 24-year-old Lopez is back with the Nets he appears to be using his recent experience, including his injury-plagued 2011-12 season, as motivation.
Here is part of what Lopez told Evan Roberts of WFAN during a recent interview:
"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.
With Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries the Nets believe they are a playoff-caliber team. To be special, though, they need Lopez to be the player he has hinted he can be. Foot and ankle injuries limited him to five games last season, but he averaged 20.4 points per game in 2010-11. He averaged only 6.5 rebounds, though, down from more than eight per game his first two seasons in the league.
If Lopez can match his career averages of 18.4 points and 7.9 rebounds he should be able to accomplish his goal, which is "to render those trade rumors moot."
If that happens, the Nets will indeed be a dangerous team in the Eastern Conference.