We guess it’s still possible that the Nets could trade Brook Lopez but listening to Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson talk about their center, it seemed unlikely.
“Brook, I think in both of our minds is one of the elite centers in the league,” Marks said of Lopez, who averaged a career-best 24.9 points per 36 minutes in 2016-17.
“There’s no question there. If you look at the way his game has translated, not only in Kenny’s system but what he’s done in the off-season. He’s worked hard on the performance aspect of his body and so forth and also changing his game and adapting a little bit. Does he fit with Kenny’s system? I think you’ve seen that it does, it does work.”
Lip service? Doubt it. The Nets brain trust has been saying the same thing about the 29-year-old for a year. A big part of that assessment, of course, is about the development of Lopez as a three-point shooter.
Brook Lopez is 137-for-417 from three-point land in his nine-year NBA career, but of course, before this past season, the true 7-footer was 3-of-31.
Kenny Atkinson became the Stanford product’s ninth (!!) head coach during his pro-ball livelihood, all with the Nets.
As we all know, Lopez always had a nice touch from the mid-range area, so when Atkinson got here he said, ‘hey, why don’t we just take a couple steps back?’ and all the sudden, the Nets had one of the best three-point shooting bigs in the league, in fact, in league history. Other than Dirk Nowitzki, no other seven-footer in NBA history has hit as many three’s as Lopez did this season. And he became only the second player in NBA history to hit 120 three’s and block 120 shots in a season, the other being Rasheed Wallace back in 2005-2006.
“I think our young players have made strides, I think our older have made strides including Brook,” said Atkinson, the soon-to-be second year head coach. “He adapted his game a little bit to the style we want him to play. I think our late season success helped create more of a positive vibe. Lot of good things going into the off-season.”
Marks also, tellingly, said he’d like to seem more of Brook-Lin, the combination of Lopez and Jeremy Lin, who played only 36 games together due to Lin’s season-long hamstring issues.
“When you have your best players on the court, it certainly helps rise the level of everybody else,” he said. “Does it change the constitution of the team with those two players together? It’s honestly good to see them playing well together. We would’ve love to have had them healthy the whole year playing together as we’ve seen Jeremy and Brook make other people better.”
Marks also said Lopez’s new found range didn’t surprise him.
“I’m not sure that it ever changed my opinion (of Lopez) because I knew he was a heck of a player. I never thought Brook wasn’t,” Marks said. “Throughout his career he’s been able to adapt, from college all the way through his game has changed a little bit.”
Atkinson added that Brook adapting to the ‘new NBA’ was a good start for the Nets for what is slated to be a big, and potentially very busy, off-season, one that could end with Lopez entering his 10th season as a Net.