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Nets, center Lopez happy to still be together


NEW YORK (AP) - While the NBA was transfixed by the Brooklyn Nets' public dalliance with Dwight Howard, there was one person who was unconcerned.

Brook Lopez, the centerpiece in trade packages for the Orlando Magic's All-Star center, never wavered. We wanted to be in Brooklyn, and he was willing to wait for his time to sign a deal and rejoin his teammates.

Last week, it finally came.

"It didn't bother me too much because I don't pay attention to media speculation," Lopez said Wednesday. "I read books and comic books. (They) didn't mention Howard too much."

That was a good strategy. Eventually, Lopez put the comics down and agreed to a four-year, $61 million extension, as the Nets dropped Howard from their radar - for the time being.

"They signed me," Lopez said at a press conference inside the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge. "That's a very good sign of faith in them."

Of course, the franchise can resume trade talks with Orlando for Howard in January. NBA bylaws state that teams can trade re-signed players beginning on Jan. 15. But for now, he's a Net ... and a happy one.

Along the way, though, it wasn't that easy. The Nets, in fact, were concerned how Lopez would react to the rumors, so coach Avery Johnson spoke to him at his basketball camp.

"I told him to take it as flattering," Johnson said. "(The visit was) more to reiterate we believe in you."

Lopez, a proven scorer who needs to improve his rebounding skills, strengthens the Nets as the franchise readies itself for its debut season at the Barclays Center. Point guard Deron Williams (five years, $98 million), small forward Gerald Wallace (four years, $40 million) and power forward Kris Humphries (two years, $24 million) were also re-signed by general manager Billy King. The Nets also traded for shooting guard Joe Johnson and forward Reggie Evans, while also signing free-agent guards Jerry Stackhouse and Earl Watson as well as Mirza Teletovic, who can play both forward positions.

"Billy has had an outstanding summer," Johnson said. "We're really excited. I'm happy. We haven't looked this good on paper in a long time. (We) feel we've significantly upgraded our roster. (The) potential of becoming a really elite team is there. (The) potential and possibility of being a special team is there."

Lopez, 24, played in a career-low five games in 2011-12 due to two, separate bone breaks in his right foot. The first, suffered during the preseason, caused him to miss the season's first 32 games. And he re-injured the foot during the Nets' 104-101 over Charlotte March 4, and missed the final 28 games. The Nets struggled without him, finishing their last season in New Jersey with a 22-44 mark.

"(The foot) feels great. Not anything I couldn't do. Doing everything without restriction," Lopez said. "I worked on getting healthy. (I've) been doing a lot of weight lifting, other exercises, to keep weight off the (foot)."

Lopez was good when he was in the lineup. He finished with a 19.2 scoring average, highlighted by a 38-point performance in the Nets' 93-92 win over Dallas Feb. 28. He averaged just 3.6 rebounds, though.

Entering his fifth season, Lopez has started 243 of the 251 games he has played in. The 10th overall pick in the 2008 draft has averaged 17.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots in his career while shooting .504 from the field.

"Brook is a tremendous basketball talent," Johnson said. "(I'm) looking forward to him improving on both ends of the floor. Brook is a top-five center in the NBA."

And he is a Net ... for now.

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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