Brook Lopez's Game Grows in Brooklyn
This look at Brook Lopez's 2012-13 season is the third feature in a series reviewing the Brooklyn Nets' inaugural year playing at Barclays Center.
With the Nets' 2012-13 season complete, center Brook Lopez wore a Disney T-shirt to wrap-up day. It was heather grey, fitted tight enough for Williamsburg, and featured a Mickey Mouse silhouette composed of typographic art: "The best part about being a grown up is not having to act like one."
Whether the message represented expression of self or that day's closest option, it rang ironic after a season in which the 25-year-old's game fully matured.
"Look at Brook," says teammate Reggie Evans, who started alongside Lopez in the frontcourt. "Brook's probably what, a top-two big man? Brook showed you everything. Brook's a whole different person right now, and that's in a good way. Nobody stops him. The only person that can stop Brook is Brook."
Lopez averaged a team-high 19.4 points – leading all NBA centers in scoring – along with 6.9 rebounds and a career-best 2.1 blocks. The season after being limited to five of 66 games due to a twice-broken foot, Lopez appeared in 74 games, playing 30.4 minutes per game (totaling 2,253) while shooting .521 from the field and .758 from the free-throw line.
The center helped drive the Nets' early offense, which was the NBA's most effective in the first quarter (112.6 points per 100 possessions) according to NBA.com/Stats. Lopez averaged 7.1 of his 19.4 PPG in the opening period. Overall, with Lopez on the floor, Brooklyn scored an additional 5.6 points per 100 while allowing 2.0 fewer on defense. The team totaled a net rating of +4.9 with Lopez playing and -2.9 with him on the bench.
The well-rounded offensive game and improved shot-blocking helped Lopez earn his first All-Star appearance, having been named an Eastern Conference reserve in Houston. He last participated in All-Star Weekend during his sophomore season (2009-10), when he was invited to play in the Rising Stars Challenge for a second consecutive year. The NBA has yet to announce this season's All-NBA performers, and it is difficult to imagine others will claim all three center spots on the honorary teams. But gaining league-wide recognition no longer drives Lopez.
"I think the next level has to be team-oriented," Lopez says. "It's not really personal – there's not much left personally. It's just a matter of winning. That's the bottom line. I think that really separates the best of the best in the league from the rest."
In Brooklyn, after four playoff-free seasons to start his career, Lopez found team success to match his individual performance: the Nets won 49 games, including a franchise-record 23 road victories. A fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference set the team up for a First Round series against the No. 5 seeded Chicago Bulls.
Chicago took a 3-1 lead before the Nets were able to force a deciding Game Seven at Barclays Center. But Brooklyn couldn't complete a fourth-quarter comeback, and the season ended at home. For the series, Lopez averaged 22.3 points (.472 FG%), 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in 37.6 minutes per game, a solid playoff foundation upon which he can build.
"Getting to the playoffs allowed Brook Lopez to see what the playoffs are like, to see what a Game 7 is like," says General Manager Billy King. "I told Brook, 'Now the season is ending for you, there's pain.' It's not just losing the last game of the regular season and going home. Now you are in the playoffs and you feel the pain of losing. So you want to make sure you do everything so you don't have that pain again."
Says Lopez: "The level of play was incredible. It was a great time. It was something I got a small taste of and I definitely want more."
Spoken like a grown-up, by a guy playing like one.
For more, view the Brook Lopez Season Highlights photo gallery.
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