Remember last summer when pundits around the league were trashing Brook Lopez and the Nets for giving him a max deal? And it wasn't just the pundits. Lopez was soft, he couldn't rebound, he was a horrible defender and his foot injury could be the first in a series that would make the investment in him foolhardy. He simply wasn't in the same league as the two players mentioned in trade talks involving him ... Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum.
Now, like political writers who hope you forgot who they predicted would win, sports columnists are coming around. David Thorpe writes Wednesday for ESPN Insider of Lopez's remarkable journey from a player dissed by everyone within a 50-mile radius of Orlando to an All-Star and, Thorpe writes, into quite possibly a top 10 player.
Thorpe says Lopez's transformation can be described simply, "he's playing like a skilled big man rather than a big man trying to show off his skills."
He adds that some of Lopez's improvement must be attributed to hard work in the strength and conditioning room, both last year and this, as well as the change in the Nets environment...
Much of the failure we saw from Lopez in the past was due in part to the horrible atmosphere surrounding him in New Jersey -- coaching issues, substandard talent surrounding him, impending franchise relocations. That is behind him now. Brooklyn has upped its talent and apparently has stabilized the coaching situation. If the Nets continue to develop into legit contenders, and Lopez and continues to evolve his game, his All-Star appearance next weekend won't be his last.