The jury is still out on whether or not the duo can work together long-term, but the Nets will need to find out sooner or later.
At the very least the two players can work individually, with the frontcourt duo combining for 44 points in a 108-98 win over the New Orleans Hornets Tuesday night in the Barclays Center.
Lopez and Blatche went to work together with 4:33 left in the third quarter after Reggie Evans picked up his fourth foul.
“It was good to just finally be out there and try everything out,” Lopez said. “I personally wondered what it was going to be like, was it going to work?”
Both players hoped their partnership was a sign of things to come, but Blatche would not commit to a certain partnership.
“It would be interesting, no question,” Lopez added. “It’s fun out there with Andray and he definitely makes the game easier for me.”
“I never know what P.J. has up his sleeve,” Blatche said. “We play Sunday. Who knows? We play Sunday, it could be different.”
Carlesimo said he planned all along to play Lopez and Blatche together against the Hornets, despite having played them together sparingly the entire season. With the Hornets boasting one of the league’s bigger frontcourts with Robin Lopez and Anthony Davis, the matchup seemed an obvious one.
Carlesimo did not go to that matchup, however, until Evans’ foul trouble forced his hand.
With Blatche experiencing the hot hand in the second quarter, Carlesimo opted to let his All-Star center sit out the entire quarter rather than pair the two together. At halftime, Evans had played 3:45 more than Lopez. By foregoing Lopez’s minutes in the second quarter, the center sat on the bench cooling off for 44 minutes of real time.
He initially struggled in the third quarter, missing his first two shots and didn’t register a point until 6:29 had elapsed.
Carlesimo continues to display a reticence to completely trust Lopez, although the center’s teammates and front office would tell a different story. The team rewarded him with a max contract over four years and the players generally look to Lopez when struggling on offense.
Although Carlesimo strongly lobbied for Lopez’s inclusion in the All-Star game, he’s employed a strange pattern in the big man’s minutes since the break.
Lopez has often gotten off to fast starts, only to disappear late in games. Not all of the blame falls on Lopez, however, as Carlesimo has routinely gone away from him.
In a 76-72 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 24, Lopez did not play at all in the fourth quarter and understandably skipped out on the media afterwards.
Although the hot hand is a valid excuse for keeping a player in the game, it’s no excuse for keeping Lopez on the bench. The center is arguably the Nets’ best player, especially when looking at their performance without him in 2011-12.
Carlesimo would not fully commit to the pairing going forward, instead using matchups to dictate their minutes. Potential matchups would foreshadow the two playing together, though.
“If the matchup will allow us to, yes we’ll do it (again),” Carlesimo said. “If we makes the playoffs, there are a couple teams in the playoffs that lend themselves to us playing big against them.”
Going forward, Carlesimo will need to find a way to get both Lopez and Blatche going at the same time. Otherwise, it might be a short return to the postseason.