Lopez adds much-needed presence in paint

By: Brian Travis, Hornets.com

When asked what he was most looking forward to at the start of the 2012-13 NBA season, his answer was simply, “To push around and get physical with other players besides my teammates.” This, after Robin Lopez and his teammates had been hard at work against one another through the offseason and training camp.

It’s that kind of intensity and physicality that Hornets fans can expect to see out of the fifth-year center all season long.

The 7-foot Stanford product was selected 15th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft and spent the first four seasons of his career with the Phoenix Suns. After learning under the tutelage of perennial All-Star center and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal during his rookie campaign, Lopez emerged in Year 2, recording a career-best 8.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game in 2009-10. Lopez and the Phoenix Suns parted ways after four seasons this summer as the Hornets acquired the big man in a sign-and-trade on July 27, a deal that also included Hakim Warrick.

The 24-year-old and the Hornets are excited about starting this new chapter in their respective histories together, with Lopez as the team’s starting center. New Orleans coaches and staff expect the Fresno, Calif., native to provide a defensive and rebounding presence at the 5 position, to smooth the NBA transition of No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis. However, it’s Lopez’s ability to add scoring punch that the rookie has noticed early in their time in the gym together.

“He’s very competitive, very strong. Around the rim, he has a very unorthodox hook shot that can’t be stopped for some reason” Davis explained. “That’s the great thing about him. He’s a great talent. I can’t wait to start playing with him. Hopefully we can do some damage offensively and defensively together on the low post.”

Whether it is his big, curly hair and goatee, his blocked shots and muscle in the paint or even a smooth baseline hook shot, Robin Lopez figures to be an image and fixture of Hornets basketball throughout the 2012-13 season.