“If you don’t see Brook Lopez play a lot, this is why he made the All-Star team,” explained a hyped up Jim Spanarkel, the YES Network color commentator, after Lopez blocked Jodie Meeks’ shot attempt from the weak side. “It’s plays like that at the defensive end of the floor – it’s not that they were non-existent – but they weren’t Brook Lopez of a couple years ago.”
That play – and statement – so adequately sums up Brook Lopez’s season and career thus far.
Lopez’s numbers have always been pretty solid, but they most definitely don’t paint the picture of who he is as a player. Despite averaging 17.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks for his career, Lopez has never given off the vibe that he’s an enforcer in the paint.
This year, he has stepped up his defense, and that’s making a difference inside for Brooklyn.
Learning about how to move people and hold down the paint is somewhat of an acquired taste, so to speak, for some big men. This from Tim Bontemps of The Daily News:
Meanwhile, Deron Williams said Lopez has shed his reputation for being soft.
“He came with a new attitude this year and knew how much we needed him defensively, especially holding down the paint, blocking shots, altering shots,” Williams said. “For a big man getting bigger and stronger can always help a guy like Brook. He’s gotten stronger, been able to move guys around the paint better. It’s just more of an intimidating factor.”
Lopez has improved his effort and intensity in the middle, and it has paid dividends for these Nets. He has been by far the most consistent player on a team that pays i’s backcourt of Williams and Joe Johnson a combined $37 million.
“I knew he had a great touch down low but I didn’t know how effective he was,” explained Johnson, who is playing with Lopez for the first time this season. “I think this is one of the only years that he’s really been healthy and that I’ve gotten to see him close up and play in practice every day.
“He’s definitely a great talent.”
That last line is key, as Lopez’s talent (and numbers, compared to other Eastern Conference centers) were so undeniable that Commissioner David Stern had no choice but to put him in the 2013 All-Star Game after Rajon Rondo went down with an ACL injury.
That said, at just 24 years old, if Lopez continues to develop, he can become a much better player. He has so much to give in other areas that to the common fan, he can be frustrating to watch at times.
Turn the page to see some of the strengths and areas to improve regarding Lopez’s game just after the midpoint of his fifth NBA season.