There was a point in time (about a week ago) that a lot of Nets fans doubted Brook Lopez, including me. The goofy big man who adores "Star Wars" and can get buckets as well as any other center in the league has major flaws and, after a back injury, it seemed that it was time for him to move on. Cue the trade rumors!
However, since his return (in a reserve role), Lopez has excelled. In his past five games, since that 0-of-5 debacle vs. Indiana, he’s averaging 18.8 points and 7.8 rebounds, 2.0 blocks on 59.2 percent shooting in only 24 minutes. His per 36 minutes numbers over than stretch? 28.0 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.0 blocks. Yeah, that's pretty damn good. His defensive has also shown immense improvement. The Nets haven't given up 100 points in any of those five games, three of them wins. His 22 point, 13 rebound game Monday night was his best combined performance since he has games of 28 and 10 and 26 and 11 in the Bulls playoff series two years ago.
What has stuck out above all else has been Lopez's great job on the glass. Lopez has been much more aggressive over this stretch and in recent weeks. The 16 rebounds he had vs. San Antonio on December 3 were the most he had since the end of his rookie year when he garnered 20 in a game.
Here are some examples:
The first one from Monday's game against the Mavericks, is a ball that goes long off the back iron, and while Lopez is out of position now and Tyson Chandler is likely to get the rebound, the big fella gets his arm on the ball and knocks it loose.
In clip two, Lopez comes flying in on the opposite side of Mirza Teletovic's runner and steals it away from Chris Bosh, another sign of a side we haven't seen much of from Lopez in recent years.
Before we look at the third clip, we must share how Lopez is a tricky case when classified as a rim protector Opponents shoot around 50% at the rim when Lopez is there, per SportVu data on NBA.com, but Lopez's rim protection numbers could be skewed because he is usually late to rotate and can't check his opponents path to the rim like other bigs.
However, in clip number three, Lopez rotates over well and helps Mirza Teletovic out by swatting Dewayne Dedmon's shot away. Not only does he block it, but he then grabs the rebound and the ball is quickly going the other way.
Lastly, Lopez shows great fundamental skills in a box out on Joakim Noah. Most basketball players don't try as much on free throw attempts. It's more of just a shoving match to get to the ball, but Lopez sticks his butt into Noah's gut and forces him out. Yeah, Noah kind of gives up at the end, but Lopez still showed good basic skills of boxing out, a lost art in the NBA today.
The big man who has been scrutinized of late for his lack of aggressiveness on the floor and his inability to stay on it, has proved many wrong. While he doesn't have the energy that Mason Plumlee brings to the floor, he has done a fine job of getting up the floor faster --Nets use more than 96 possessions per 48 minutes when Lopez is on the floor since returning from injury-- and getting in position to rebound.
Lopez of course can bring more offensive options than Plumlee, who as one reporter noted measures his range more in inches. He is still only 26 years old. That's 23 months older than Plumlee. This progress is a great sign to see, hopefully can be sustained ... and can be combined with his fellow seven-footer.
Lopez starting to regain his confidence - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York