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Nets stars recall to BrooklynNets.com their memories of Brook Lopez

BROOKLYN – Spencer Dinwiddie vividly remembers his first conversation with Brook Lopez.

“He was reading a book and I was like ‘what are you reading about,’ he was like ‘I’m about to build a rollercoaster,’” the point guard recalled with a laugh. “I was like ‘are you serious?’ and he was like yeah. And it was like a textbook style book – it wasn’t a game, he was like, ‘I’m about to build a rollercoaster.’”

The funny thing about Lopez is that if you speak with anyone who has worked with him during his time at the Nets, you’ll get plenty of similar quirky stories. That is who he was in New Jersey and in Brooklyn. He was a basketball star who cared more about interpersonal relationships off the court than his stats on it.

That is what will make his return on Friday night an emotional one for Nets players and fans.

“With Brook, he was more like a big brother,” Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said. “That kind of stood out to me. He didn’t judge anybody.”

Hollis-Jefferson remembers when he first met Lopez in 2015. The Nets had a veteran roster back then, coming off of a playoff appearance. A lot of the older players had their own personal lives to attend to and according to them, Lopez was a guy who largely kept to himself. Hollis-Jefferson quickly learned that it was a misperception.

“There was just something that stood out to me about him,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “You see bits of it – his energy, how goofy he was. So when I would talk to him, it would be nonstop laughter – sarcasm and jokes. Which made things fun, especially when things weren’t going so well.”

The Nets failed to meet expectations that season, which ultimately led to the team deciding to go in a younger direction the following season under new general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson. Hollis-Jefferson and Lopez’s friendship became stronger during that period.

“We just connected man, every day,” Hollis-Jefferson explained before later saying, “you just become like a best friend with someone [like that]. If there’s anyone in the NBA – outside of the people who are here – it would definitely have to be him. He’s someone I would consider a best friend.”

Whether or not you were a rookie or a guy on a 10-day contract trying to make the team, Lopez had a way of being able to communicate with everyone. Quincy Acy remembers when he joined the Nets last season, he was just trying to secure a contract and Lopez greeted him and made sure he felt welcome in the locker room.

“Brook is a one-of-a-kind individual on and off the court. He’s a great person, great teammate, great personality,” Acy said. “He’s just an all-time guy.”

But make no mistake: Lopez could ball.

“He’s one of the most talented players I’ve ever seen in my life,” Dinwiddie said. “It’s really crazy. To be 7-foot, that big, and be able to move decently, but have every skill set in the book – he could even pass.”

Lopez is the Nets’ all-time leader in points, blocks, seasons, field goals – the list goes on. He was as technically gifted as a center in the NBA could get. When Kenny Atkinson arrived as head coach in 2016, he wanted Brooklyn to emphasize pace and spacing the floor. Lopez quickly adapted his game instead of trying to force the first-time head coach to cater to him.

“I’ve never seen anyone just decide to shoot threes,” Dinwiddie said. “He just woke up out of bed one day and was like, ‘Well, I’ll just step back a few feet and start draining threes.’”

Trading Lopez to Los Angeles wasn’t an easy decision for the Nets, but it fit into the team’s plan to get younger and rebuild. One thing is certain though, when the Lakers’ lineup is announced at Barclays Center and his name is announced on the PA, a sold out crowd will be on their feet, waiting to say thank you.

“Looking forward to him coming back and seeing the ovation he receives because he played his heart out for this city,” Acy said.

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