Brook Lopez Will Be There For The Brooklyn Move
The Brooklyn Nets and Brook Lopez have an ironic relationship. You can’t spell Brooklyn without Brook, but you have never heard a Dwight Howard to the Nets trade rumor without Lopez in it either.
“It didn’t bother me too much only because I don’t really read a lot of the stuff (media) guys write, or put on the Internet, or on TV,” said Lopez. “I keep to myself mostly. I’ve read a lot of books and comic books and they don’t mention Dwight Howard too much.”
Superman is featured in DC Comics, but Lopez prefers Marvel.
Lopez spoke for the first time since signing a four-year, $61 million contract extension to continue his reign as the longest tenured Nets player on the current roster.
“I just can’t really say how fortunate I am to be here,” said Lopez. “I’m so happy that I’m still a Net. This is what I wanted this entire offseason through the whole free agent process. I just want to be a Net my entire career. Ever since being drafted on draft night with the New Jersey Nets and seeing this whole transformation take place over the last four years and into this offseason it’s been an incredible experience for me. These are really exciting times going into next season.”
Constant communication with general manager Billy King helped Lopez through the free agency process despite heavy trade speculation.
“We’re texting all the time. I don't know how many people text their general manager, but we do. I don't text my mom a lot,” said Lopez. “It's been great we talk about a lot of stuff outside of basketball and I'm comfortable talking to (Nets management) about many things that I'm not comfortable talking to (media) guys about. It's definitely a fantastic relationship and I'm glad that we are in the situation we are in together.”
Avery Johnson also made an extra effort to keep in touch with Lopez over the phone and in person. Johnson drove 45 minutes to Lopez’s basketball camp to let him know the Nets wanted to retain him.
“Brook and I really had a nice talk before free agency started and he understood where I was and how I felt about him,” said Johnson. “I think the main thing is when your name is brought up in rumors or trade speculation I told him to take it as flattering because you’re wanted by other teams. With Brook being one of the top-five centers in the NBA there are 25 other teams that really would want his services. We’re glad that it worked out where he’s here.”
The extra effort from Johnson went a long way with Lopez.
“It was very reassuring to know that (Johnson) wanted to build something special here and wanted me to be a part of it,” said Lopez. “They signed me and like Avery said I think that's a very good sign of faith in them.”
However, not even during his introductory press conference could Lopez dodge another question about a future trade for Howard.
When Lopez was asked about a possible trade in January, which is the first time he can be traded by rule under the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Avery Johnson grabbed the microphone while Lopez shook his head.
“I’ll answer that,” said Johnson. “That’s a funny question. Whenever a free agent signs a contract I don’t think the possibility of (Lopez) being traded in January ever comes up. That would be a first for me and I’ve been in the league over 20 years. What we talk about when we re-sign our free agents like Brook is we’re excited about where we’re going. Here are your strengths and weaknesses. This is how we see you being used next year to help our team become a championship team. Those are the things that are talked about.”
Lopez took the high rode when pressed on the issue later in the press conference.
“There is definitely a motivational factor,” said Lopez. Like I said, I try to ignore it as much as possible. The little bit that I do hear I definitely use as motivation.”
Last season was an anomaly for Lopez, who played three consecutive 82-game seasons prior to missing all but five games last season due to a foot injury.
The long layoff has Lopez eager to prove the top-five center proclamation from Johnson as he continues to rehab.
“I love playing and being there sitting on the sidelines watching the games made me realize how much how much I love the game and how much I love being out there,” said Lopez. “(Injury) feels great. There hasn’t been anything I couldn’t do. I wouldn’t say 100 percent yet just because I haven’t played in an actual NBA game.”
Lopez has done basketball activities such as running, jumping, and even dunking, but he has also worked hard to get his body in the best physical shape possible.
“I’ve been doing some weightlifting, other exercises, stuff like that,” said Lopez. “Keep the pressure off the foot and stay in shape as much as possible. Build a body for basketball and do things that translate to my performance on the floor even though I’m not on the floor.”
Over the course of his career Lopez has been a consistent and efficient scorer averaging 17.4 points while shooting over 50 percent from the field and roughly 80 percent from the foul line.
The weakness in Lopez’s game is his rebounding, which Johnson expects to improve this season.
“I’m really fortunate to be his coach. He’s very coachable. I enjoy working with him,” said Johnson. “Most of all I’m really looking forward to him improving on both ends of the floor. He’s such a dynamic offensive player. He’s a player defensively that’s going to make significant strides on that end.”
I asked Lopez if he’d be used in more pick-and-rolls with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson or mainly in the low post.
“I don't really know,” said Lopez. “I know I will try and be as coachable as possible and I want to be a great teammate. I don't want to hinder our development by any means. I want to do what's best for the team.”
Lopez has the ability to face-up and shoot over defenders, shoot a hook shot with either hand, or attack the basket thanks to his footwork in the post. Lopez can also be used in pick-and-roll plays cutting to the basket and finishing in traffic or pick-and-pop plays by stepping out to 20 feet for a jump shot inside the arc.
When Lopez discussed opening the Barclays Center as the Nets starting center the word “excitement” was used often. Lopez hopes to do that every season for Brooklyn in the foreseeable future and until he retires.
“If everything worked out that would be great I love being on the Nets,” said Lopez.