It seems likely, but by no means certain, that Brook Lopez will be back for his 10th season with the Nets next year, but as he knows and we know, things change and Lopez’s name will be part of trade rumors this summer.
There have been times when he was asked to get off a team bus, then asked to get back on. There was a time when he called a friend from the road, asked him to go to his apartment and pack a travel bag.
Things have changed since then. He has dramatically improved his offensive game and become a better passer and rim protector even if his rebounding numbers have dropped. While a certain unicorn across the river has 112 three pointers and 129 blocks, Lopez has 132 and 123. Number of NBA seven-footers who have finished a season with 120 of each? We can find only one.
He is appreciated more by his GM and head coach not just as a player, but as a leader, as a person of character. But Sean Marks being Sean Marks, he won’t commit. Here’s what he offered last month when asked by Evan Roberts about the possibility of Lopez being traded this summer.
“We're going to be strategic and that just doesn’t go for Brook. I know he's the one name that keeps popping up and has done for the last 19 years. There's always going to be that guy. We're just going to continue to monitor it, monitor how the team functions this year, this off season and so forth into the future. We know we have to be strategic. we know we have to be as creative as we can. May not be with Brook. Who knows who it's going to be with. But you never know what offers are going to come your way.
As he’s said before, Marks added that he wasn’t shopping Lopez. And as Filip Bondy, writing for the Times on Saturday, notes, Lopez says he’s “conferred” with Marks, telling him he wants to stay in Brooklyn.
Lopez has, as noted, been through this before, being offered in trades for Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Reggie Jackson ... and those are the ones we know about. None of it has dissuaded him from his goal of playing his entire career with the Nets of New Jersey and Brooklyn.
“I definitely think I’m lucky,” he told Bondy when asked about being a one-team player. “When people look back on me and my career, I’d like them to say I was one of the people who helped start something big in Brooklyn. Started a legacy where players want to come and play.”
It’s something he’s said on more than one occasion. He wants to be around when the team is good again, when the organization has succeed. That could be another three years ... and another contract. No one is committing that long but Marks and Atkinson appreciate what he’s done for the team’s culture.
“Sean and I were on him, and we knew it was going to take time,” Kenny Atkinson told Greg Logan of Newsday. “He’s shown it in so many different ways. It’s not just on the court. There’s stuff off the court that he’s doing.”
Underappreciated, you say? It’s been his history with the Nets. He has done what’s been asked with minimal complaint. Games that others might have been celebrated elsewhere are just Brook, like his effort a week ago against Atlanta. Did anyone mention, note that he was three steals away from the elusive 5x5 stat? He had 29 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks and 2 steals in 31 minutes. Know how many seven footers have accomplished a 5x5? Two. Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson. No, he didn’t do it, but that’s no reason not to appreciate him.
Saturday, he will have a chance to break the Nets career scoring record. He’s 35 short and you know his twin, Robin, doesn’t want to go down as the guy standing there as his brother gets the game ball. He will get it. The record will be his and if the gods of basketball and Brooklyn have their way, he’ll be back to add to it next year.
And if not, we’ll always appreciate The Big Fella.
- The Nets’ Brook Lopez on Starting a Brooklyn Legacy - Filip Bondy - New York Times
- Brook Lopez closing in on Nets’ scoring record - Greg Logan - Newsday