Lopez to Return Against Wolves
Posted: Dec. 14, 2010
After missing a month with an injured left knee, Suns center Robin Lopez will return to the lineup tomorrow against the Wolves.
The Suns center suffered a moderate sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) when teammate Jared Dudley crashed into him on November 14 against the Lakers. Up until that point, Lopez had started all nine games for the Suns this season, posting averages of 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds a game in 17.8 minutes.
Upon returning to full five-on-five scrimmaging this past week, Lopez, the training staff and the coaching staff felt comfortable in letting him suit up Wednesday.
“He’ll play, although I don’t how long or how effective he’ll be,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “It’s his first game back, but we’ll stick him out there and see what happens.”
Coach Gentry said that if Lopez is feeling as well as he has the past couple of days, that he would probably start. The Suns don’t want to him warm up and then have him sit on the bench.
“We’ll see how that goes but if he’s ready to go, it’s probably 70-30 that we’ll start him,” Gentry said.
For Lopez, it’s been frustrating watching his team go 6-8 without him in the lineup.
“It’s always difficult being on the bench especially when you feel like you can help your team, but I think that they did what they could,” Lopez said. “I’m just itching to get back out there with the guys and play in an actual game instead of beating up on each other.”
The Suns, who are last in the league in total rebounding percentage and in defensive field goal percentage, hope that Lopez can give them a boost in those areas. For the second-consecutive season, Lopez will be returning from injury to face the Wolves.
“Just his size will help,” Gentry said. “Hopefully he’s going to be a presence in the lane for us defensively. And hopefully we’re going to pick up our rebounding a little bit with him in there.”
This season is eerily familiar to last season, with Lopez missing the beginning of the season with a broken metatarsal in his left foot. After struggling early on, Lopez emerged late in the season, averaging 11.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 24.5 minutes as a starter.
“Right now I’m just trying to get back into the swing of things, trying to figure out where I should be on the court with some of the guys,” Lopez said.
Although Phoenix is in need of some size around the basket, Suns point guard Steve Nash is looking at the big picture. The two-time MVP is just hoping that his young center doesn’t “relapse” physically and hopes that he can begin to find a rhythm with his teammates.
“I think he’s moving well and whether he’s in top shape or not, it’s great to see him out there looking good,” Nash said. “Hopefully he’ll feel positive and get to the place where he needs to be.”
During his recovery, Lopez worked himself back into shape using the stationary bike, elliptical and an array of exercises in the weight room. Earl Barron, who helped replace Lopez in the lineup, averaged 3.2 points and 3.5 rebounds in 17 minutes a game during Lopez’s absence.
And while Barron played well during stretches, the team is looking forward to adding another big body to the front line.
“Earl did a good job, but Robin is the future of this team,” Suns forward Channing Frye said.
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