Lopez, Finally An Eastern Conference All-Star

It took a few days longer than many expected, but Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez is an Eastern Conference All-Star.

Just before 5 o’clock Wednesday afternoon, the NBA announced Commissioner David Stern had selected Lopez as an Eastern Conference reserve. Replacing the injured Rajon Rondo, Lopez travels to Houston in two weeks, when he will make his first appearance at the league’s premier showcase.

"It’s a huge honor,” Lopez said, in a pregame statement. “But first and foremost, I couldn’t have done it without my teammates -- they make my job 100 times easier. Playing with Deron, Joe and Gerald, they gift wrap me buckets and take a lot of attention away from me on the court.”

Lopez has averaged a team-high 18.6 points and 2.2 blocks, also contributing 7.3 rebounds while shooting a career-best .525 from the field. His player efficiency rating – a stat developed by now-Grizzlies VP of Basketball Operations John Hollinger – of 25.23 ranks fourth in the NBA, trailing only LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. An average player ranks 15.00.

This honor caps a year of grueling work by Lopez, who spent nearly a calendar year rehabilitating his broken right foot to full health. The injury limited him to just five games a season ago, and though he missed seven games earlier this year with an unrelated mild sprain of that foot, Lopez trails only Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in minutes played among Nets.

“That kind of recognition has got to feel good,” said Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo. “It’s got to help you from a confidence standpoint. Night and day? No. but I think it’s validating and hopefully it’ll be a positive for him going forward. He should be proud. He should be very proud.

“He’s made a commitment, first of all coming back from the injury and, secondly, in two areas that we asked him to work on: He’s so much better defensively than he was, and he’s making a much more concerted effort to rebound.”

Lopez’s rebounding average per game trails that of both his rookie (8.1) and sophomore (8.3) seasons. But considering he’s playing a career-(full-season)-low of 29.3 minutes per game, shifting the averages to per-36 minute numbers shows he’s actually splitting the difference; this year’s 8.9 rebounds per-36 sits between the rookie (9.6) and sophomore (8.4) adjusted averages.

Drafted No. 10 overall by the then-New Jersey Nets in 2008, Lopez becomes the 13th player in franchise history to participate in the All-Star Game. He follows Buck Williams (three times), Otis Birdsong, Micheal Ray Richardson, Derrick Coleman, Kenny Anderson, Jayson Williams, Stephon Marbury, Jason Kidd (five times), Kenyon Martin, Vince Carter (three times), Devin Harris and teammate Deron Williams, who played last year.

“It’s something I’ve been working towards,” Lopez said. “It’s been a goal of mine and it will definitely be an exciting weekend.”

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