Brook Robert Lopez has a quiet, gentle aggressiveness that’s unlike most 7-foot NBA centers. He lacks none of the combativeness of his competitors, but it’s his easygoing, team-first persona that differentiates him from the rest.
Lopez celebrated his 29th birthday last weekend, Saturday, April 1, scoring 30 points (7 rebounds) in a 121-111 win against the Orlando Magic, and 29 (5 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks) against the Atlanta Hawks Sunday, a 91-82 win against a ranked, playoff-bound opponent. It was the second back to back, home and home win for the Brooklyn Nets, their second B2B this season. Not resting on their laurels, Lopez and guard Jeremy Lin each dropped 16 for the Nets, extending their win streak to three on Tuesday night, a blowout win against the Philadelphia 76ers, 141-118.
Like their first back to back last week, their second back to back this weekend, this three game win streak is also a first for Brooklyn. And though they’ve struggled all season, they managed to match the defending champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers, in wins last month, seven for both.
If you’re looking for milestones, there have been few for this 15th place team. In last place in the Eastern Conference with four games to go, 19-59, eliminated from playoff contention months ago, the Nets look to increase their win streak to four tonight (Thursday) in Orlando.
“It helps our morale,” said Brooklyn’s head coach, Kenny Atkinson. “I think the fans can appreciate that they see progress.”
Lopez has been an intricate part of this team’s progress under Atkinson, his first year as head coach, one of several that the team has had since Lopez, a Stanford University alum, was drafted 10th in the first round by the Nets in 2008. There’s been Lawrence Frank, Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, several interims throughout and now Atkinson.
Lopez averages 20.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game this season. Among. Nets greats, he ranks No. 1 in field goals scored and in blocked shots. He’s second in games played, rebounding and starts—all milestones achieved this season, his eighth. But is this performance enough to get Brooklyn out of last place? Back to the middle of the pack—sixth, seventh, eighth—in the seedings next year and thereafter? Is Lopez more important to Brooklyn’s future success as a player on their roster, or as a way to bring another player here via a trade, or a trade for a pick in the draft? The greatness of Lopez’s value to Brooklyn will soon be determined.