Brook Lopez in his first year with the Los Angeles Lakers after spending the entirety of his previous nine NBA seasons with the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets. And despite being back on the West Coast playing for the team he grew up rooting for, the change has made for an adjustment period.
“It’s definitely been a different process for me, different than I’ve been used to,” Lopez said. “But it’s been a great learning experience for me as well.”
Lopez has taken everything he’s learned about the new situation and his new role to thrive for the Lakers. While the center has been a solid anchor for the team defensively all season, offensively he’s looked far more comfortable as the season has progressed.
From before the NBA All-Star break to after the midseason hiatus, Lopez has increased his scoring average (from 11.8 to 17.1), field-goal percentage (43.6 to 53.7 percent), 3-point percentage (33.3 to 38.5 percent), assists (1.5 to 2.4) and rebounds (3.8 to 4.5).
But while his play has improved, Lopez — who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer — says he’s been having fun all year, and he’s optimistic about the Lakers’ future with or without him.
“I’ve enjoyed playing with the guys on this team,” Lopez said. “They’re a great group and whether I’m here or not next year I think they’ll be in a great situation.”
The way Lopez has played since the All-Star break makes him look like a solid option to re-sign if Los Angeles’ big, LeBron James- and Paul George-centric dreams in free agency fall through. His remarks also echo those of Channing Frye, who believes free agents have taken notice of the Lakers.
Lopez has proved himself to be the credible floor-spacing threat the team hoped they were getting when they acquired him over the summer, and with his rim protection skills would looks to be a good long-term fit next to Julius Randle should the Lakers re-sign the restricted free agent as well.
As Lopez noted, the Lakers look fairly well-set for success next season, whether he’s on the roster or not. But while he was mostly thought of as a way for the team to save salary cap space by using his expiring contract when he was acquired, Lopez might just be able to help the Lakers more if they can re-sign him on a reasonable deal as a backup plan in free agency.