Nets vets determined to spark success

Nets vets determined to spark success
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

Brook Lopez first met Jeremy Lin at a Denny’s during high school — or was it an International House of Pancakes? He can’t quite remember.

The Nets center was competing in a tournament with his high-school squad, and the group was out for a late-night meal when Lopez realized Lin was sitting in the booth behind them.

The two didn’t talk then, but even in that Denny’s (or IHOP) Lopez was excited to see Lin, who already had a big-time basketball reputation. Now, nearly a decade later, the two are teammates, settling into leadership roles in Brooklyn as the Nets prepare for the upcoming season.

“I have a pretty positive outlook [on the season],” said Lopez during Nets media day on Sept. 26. “I know outside of our locker room and outside of ourselves, things aren’t so high, but we’ve been getting a lot of work in and getting to know each other.”

Lopez and Lin signed with the Nets as free agents earlier this summer. Between the two of them, they have seen just about everything you can on the hardwood. They know they’re Brooklyn’s de facto leaders this season — roles they are more than willing to take on.

“I definitely feel a much stronger responsibility for this leadership role that I didn’t in my last two to three teams,” Lin said. “But I’ve been telling my family and friends that’s what I’ve known my whole life as a basketball player. That’s what I’m comfortable with.”

Of course, being a leader is a two-fold job.

The first is instructional. Brooklyn’s training-camp roster this season includes five rookies — including former Lincoln star Isaiah Whitehead — and only seven players with more than three years of pro experience.

There’s plenty of youth on this team, and both Lin and Lopez know they’ll need to serve as on-court teachers as much as teammates during camp.

“A lot of it is going to fall on me and Brook to set the tone,” Lin said. “Every day in workouts and even off the court — how we live and take care of our bodies.”

The second part of the job is statistical. Lopez and Lin need to score and, more importantly, they need to work together to get to the basket. That may be what the two are most excited for — anxious to settle into an offense that will, in all likelihood, be built around the two of them. Lopez, in particular, can’t wait to be on the receiving end of a Lin assist.

“He’s just perfectly poised to run a team, especially this franchise,” Lopez said of Lin. “Selfishly, I know he’s going do a great job in the pick and roll and setting me up, setting everyone up on the court.”

This year’s Nets squad doesn’t want to be called “scrappy,” and while neither Lin nor Lopez would suggest that this team is on the fast-track to a championship, the vets are certain they can win in Brooklyn.

After all, they’ve been waiting since high school to be teammates.

“I’ve always prayed and asked God I wanted a chance to come back to New York,” Lin said. “But I wanted it to be right. At the end of the day, the best fit was here.”

Stepping up: Jeremy Lin says he is ready to serve as a leader on the relatively young Nets squad.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf