Brook Lopez is, after years of failed trades and multiple surgeries, finally The Man for the Nets. The only player left from the bad old days at the end of the team's tenure in New Jersey, Lopez is not just the longest tenured Net. If he plays out his three-year deal in Brooklyn, he will have played more years in a Nets uniform than any player in the team's 40+ year history.
Now, he must step up and he knows it. In beat writers' season previews, his new focus, his new role is seen as crucial to whatever success the Nets have, starting Wednesday night vs. Chicago.
As Tim Bontemps writes...
For the first time in his career, the affable 7-footer is the unquestioned leader of his team, and Lopez has seems to have embraced that mantle in ways he hadn’t in the past.
He’s been more willing to speak to the media, more vocal with his teammates and looks to be in terrific shape after getting a chance to work on his game, rather than rehab an injury, this summer.
Andy Vasquez quotes Joe Johnson on his skillset and his growth...
"He's probably the most talented center in the league, because of what he does," swingman Joe Johnson said. "He's a different type of big; there's no other like him in the league."
Johnson, who is entering his 15th season in the NBA, said he's watched Lopez grow — both as a basketball a player and a person — over the past three years in Brooklyn.
There are, as both point out, a lot of other questions --at point guard, about Joe Johnson's game, over who among the journeymen still finally step up, but none of it matters if Lopez doesn't perform as expected, as he did at the end of last season when in the 16-game playoff push, he averaged 23.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.3 blocks on 58 percent shooting. It's Brook Lopez's team, period.