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Plumlee making Lopez an afterthought

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His name shows up as an inactive in every box-score, but Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez rarely has his name mentioned these days. After going down with a broken foot in late December, many people wrote off the Nets.

As center Mason Plumlee matured, though, so too did the Nets. Plumlee started his 11th consecutive game for the injured Kevin Garnett Friday night night, and the Nets improved to 9-2 with the rookie center starting in March.

Plumlee continued his high-flying theatrics in a 114-98 win over the Boston Celtics Friday night at the Barclays Center. Plumlee hit all five of his shots in the first half and finished the game with 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting. Two of the points came on a posterizing dunk over former Net Kris Humphries.

“He’s definitely coming into his own right now,” point guard Deron Williams said. “KG took him under his wing; he’s a willing a learner and he comes in and works hard. The results are paying off. He’s playing so good right now.”

Plumlee’s emergence has come after the Nets inked Lopez to a four-year max deal during the 2013 offseason. Although he was a strong candidate to start the season in the D-League, Plumlee received an opportunity when Lopez went down.

While Lopez offers far more offensive skill, Plumlee brings a different skill-set to the table. He runs the floor much quicker than Lopez, and he displays far more tenacity underneath both baskets.

Plumlee scored in double-figures for the third straight game and became the first Net this season to score 18 or more points in under 21 minutes.

Up until this point, Plumlee has embraced the role bestowed upon him by head coach Jason Kidd. All his baskets have come in the paint, with a large portion of them occurring on dunks.

“Mase, he’s been playing out of his mind of late and that’s something that we need,” said shooting guard Joe Johnson, who erupted for 27 points in the win.

Plumlee must develop some kind of jump shot and an ability to defend without picking up cheap fouls, but he possesses a strong foundation. Currently, he is solid with flashes of spectacularity.

“He’s growing each times he’s taken the floor,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “The more minutes he gets, the better he gets. ... Mason is a big part of our success right now.”

With all the Nets’ offensive weapons, Plumlee contributed 18 points and five rebounds in 20:54. He should develop into a far more complete player too.

Lopez earned All-Star honors in 2012-13, but his career prognosis remains in doubt with three foot injuries to his name. Lopez is unreliable and a question mark at best.

Most people forget that the Nets started the season with Lopez and Garnett playing side by side. After Paul Pierce returned from a hand injury, he slid into the power forward position when the injuries started mounting.

When Lopez underwent his third surgery, doctors repositioned his foot to decrease the likelihood of recurrence. Former Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas received the same surgery and went on to enjoy a long career.

With Lopez, time will tell. The Nets announced that Lopez underwent further surgery on his ankle on March 3. Doctors wanted to clean up his ankle, and the procedure will keep the big man in a boot for roughly another 10 days. They have set his timetable for June.

“Hopefully he has a speedy recovery and will be able to go next season,” Kidd said.

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