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Still on the bus: No. 11, Brook Lopez

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Brook Lopez holds a number of distinctions. He is the last New Jersey Net on the Brooklyn Nets. He is the last Net to have played with Vince Carter ... or Deron Williams for that matter now that Bojan Bogdanovic is gone. He has played 538 games in a Nets uniform, most of them ending a loss. That’s second in Nets history. His next start —on Friday— will move him into a tie with Jason Kidd for second place in franchise history in games started (504), trailing only Buck Williams (633).

But his biggest distinction is that he has survived more trade deadlines, draft night rumors etc. than anyone. He’s been the rumored centerpiece in Nets deals for Dwight Howard and Reggie Jackson, among others. He’s been told not to get on a team bus headed to the airport. He’s had a friend go to his apartment to pack a travel bag. But throughout all that, the 28-year-old has remained loyal.

He’s also been damn good. He is 36 points shy of 10,000 points in a Nets uniform, 115 rebounds shy of 4,000. For the fourth time, he’s likely to average 20 points a game. His playoff numbers, limited as they may be, are better than his regular season numbers.

And once again, on Thursday, Brook Lopez wondered if he was headed to another team, another city. Once again, though, he’s still on the team bus, the team plane. As Ohm Yungmisuk tweeted, he is the Nets’, maybe even the NBA’s, Wolverine.

As Ohm tweets, he’s survived NINE coaches. For the record, Lawrence Frank, Tom Barrise, Kiki Vandeweghe, Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, Tony Brown and Kenny Atkinson. That’s in nine years. There’s been three arenas. IZOD, Prudential and Barclays. Two training centers in two states. As for teammates, too many to count.

This year was slightly different. There were rumors, but none that seemed real. Communication was better. Lopez took it easy, telling reporters Thursday that he wasn’t concerned, that he had talked to Sean Marks. "I saw him earlier today. I haven't heard anything." he said matter-of-factly with a hint of a smile, “He was wondering where Andrew (Nicholson) was. I’m not sure what time [the deadline] is. So, you know, we had a good practice and I’m ready to get on that plane.”

Marks said he really wasn’t that aggressive. "Brook Lopez is the face of the franchise here,” he said after this year’s deadline. “By no means have we been actively shopping him."

Truth be told, there wasn’t a lot of interest this time around, despite Lopez adding another dimension, three-point shooting, and showing his durability, with no games missed to foot injuries in three years. He is seen as a T-Rex among velociraptors, giant but slow moving ... without the athleticism that marks the new bigs.

Loyalty is a lot harder to measure than max verticals or 34 court dashes or agility drills. It is noticed however and not just by the GM.

Adrian Wojnarowski, who noted that change in GMs appetites, has still praised Lopez’s attitude, his loyalty, despite what many would see as affronts.

“He comes to work the next day, and he’s not holding anything against anybody. He’s the same guy, the same personality and they value that in Brooklyn,” Woj added.

Phil Mushnick of the New York Post wrote about Lopez Thursday as well.

“Most underappreciated winter athlete in New York? As seen on YES, the Nets’ Brook Lopez. Despite the odds, he plays hard — to win — every night. Perhaps he could mentor Yoenis Cespedes, too.”

There’s already discussions that Lopez will be easier to trade in June at the Draft. He’ll be an expiring contract. We’re sure he’ll be ready, but in the meantime, Brook Lopez will remain the leader of this young team, its mentor on all things NBA. Those who know him know that while he may appear goofy, he can and will take a teammate to task for being selfish, being unprepared.

There’s a word for players like Brook Lopez: professional, and we’re happy to have him STILL on the bus.