NBA

Former Brooklyn Nets C Brook Lopez is ascending to new heights

05/09/2019
Danny Small

Brook Lopez is advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals with the Milwaukee Bucks, something he never achieved with the Brooklyn Nets.

Danny Small

For some newer Brooklyn Nets fans, Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez might not hold much significance. For anyone who jumped on the 2018-19 Nets driven by D’Angelo Russell, Lopez might be just another guy.

But for any Nets fans—real die-hard Nets fans—Brook Lopez is a beloved figure. He’s one of the few former New Jersey Nets still playing in the NBA. Old school Nets fans from the Garden State still have a connection to the plodding center.

That’s why Nets fans should be excited for him right now. Lopez is heading to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in his 11-year career. In his nine years with the Nets, he never advanced past the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Lopez had an absolutely dreadful Game 5. He went 0-for-7 from the field and all seven shots were from deep. He finished the night without a single point or rebound. It was not his best night, but that shouldn’t diminish his contribution to Milwaukee this season.

He averaged 12.5 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Bucks this season. His numbers won’t overwhelm you, but he played a vital role for Milwaukee. Without him, the Bucks might not finish with the best record in the regular season.

The eccentric big man was absolutely giddy on the bench as Milwaukee closed out their gentleman’s sweep of the Boston Celtics.

Lopez was with the Nets through a few incredible ups, but more debilitating downs. Lopez endured four losing seasons in New Jersey before the franchise picked up and moved to Brooklyn.

After moving into Barclays Center, Lopez made his first and only All-Star appearance. Moreover, he was a part of the great mirage of a contender that eventually led to his exile to the Los Angeles Lakers. Ironically enough, the first “contender” that Lopez played on was the reason he was eventually traded.

When general manager Billy King traded multiple first-round draft picks for aging veterans, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry, he doomed the franchise to an eventual rebuild.

Brooklyn Nets

After that experiment failed miserably and Sean Marks took over for King as GM, the Nets started the rebuilding process. That included trading Lopez for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov.

Lopez left the Nets averaging 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. He’s a better rebounder than his numbers would indicate, but the 7-foot center was strictly a back-to-the-basket offensive player. His transformation post-Nets would redefine his career and prove to be crucial towards the Bucks’ success.

The Reinvention

Adapt or die. The game is continually changing and players must adapt with it. Brook Lopez is a perfect example of a player who developed his skill set to better fit the modern game.

In his final season with Brooklyn, Lopez added the three-point shot to his game. He shot 34.6% percent from deep on 5.2 attempts per game. In his first season with the Lakers, he shot 34.5% on 4.4 attempts per game. Finally, in his most recent season with the Bucks, he shot 36.5% on 6.3 attempts per game.

Lopez has developed a consistent three-pointer that adds a completely new element to his game. Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer encourages his guys to shoot open threes and Brook Lopez is clearly no exception.

Lopez’s emergence as a three-point threat mirrors that of Channing Frye. The recently retired NBA champion reinvented himself to become a stretch big man and he became an integral part on a championship team. Perhaps Lopez will do the same.

The Bucks are a dominant 8-1 in the playoffs so far and await the winner of the series between the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors.

There aren’t many former Nets left to root for in the playoffs. There are only a few OG New Jersey Nets to root for in general. But die-hard Nets fans should take some solace in watching Brook Lopez ascend to new heights.

His coach can’t say enough about him. He was a rock for the Nets franchise while he was in New Jersey and Brooklyn and now he’s found a home in Milwaukee.

“Brook is, he’s been phenomenal for us all year,” Budenholzer told reporters in the postgame. “I think maybe people don’t appreciate in this series and tonight all the things he did for us.”

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