Brook Lopez eager to mentor young Lakers, shoot more 3s

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Brook Lopez is much more to the Los Angeles Lakers than a big man with a big salary.

The Lakers acquired the 7-foot Lopez from Brooklyn last week, giving up promising guard D’Angelo Russell in a trade primarily designed to rid Los Angeles of the three remaining years on Timofey Mozgov’s onerous $64 million contract.

Lopez is getting more than $22.6 million next season in the final year of his deal, making him a necessary salary match for the trade. Yet the Lakers also coveted Lopez for his size, veteran leadership and newly revealed 3-point shooting ability as they rebuild the franchise on the ruins of four consecutive losing seasons.

“He has adapted to the new style of play in the NBA,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said Wednesday while introducing Lopez at their training complex. “We don’t see next year at all as a rebuilding year. We see it as a Lakers year, and a lot of that is going to be centered around (Lopez) and what he stands for, and what we know he’ll give to this organization.”

Lopez will be the Lakers’ highest-paid player next season, but the North Hollywood native intends to do much more than collect a check before hitting free agency in 2018. Although he is moving from the NBA’s worst team last season to another bottom-dweller, he sees potential and promise with coach Luke Walton and the Lakers’ emerging core.

“It’s an exciting time to be a part of this organization with all the young guys they’ve got,” the 29-year-old Lopez said. “I’m just excited to be here and help teach them, to be that veteran presence in this organization. … That being said, I’m not looking to just do that and do that only. I’m looking to help the team any way I can on the court, whatever they need done, however I fit into Luke’s offense. I can be a guy the guys can rely on, an anchor in the paint, whether it’s blocking shots or being on that help side. I’m going to do whatever it takes.”

Lopez is likely to get plenty of chances to shoot from the perimeter next season. He hit 134 3-pointers last year in Brooklyn after making just three in his first eight NBA seasons combined.

His emergence as a 3-point threat was one of the more unlikely developments in basketball last season, but the 7-footer says it was no surprise to him – and the Lakers want him to keep it up.

“Luke’s system is predicated on having bigs that can stretch the floor and create space,” Pelinka said. “Especially with Lonzo (Ball) and Jordan Clarkson as attack guards, and having bigs that can open up the floor and make plays, allow Brandon (Ingram) to kind of get in creases with Julius (Randle) running the floor, and Larry (Nance Jr). I think it’s a perfect fit, and I think he’s the perfect road map to our next generation of centers here, too.”

After coach Kenny Atkinson took over the Nets with a desire to have shooters at every position, Lopez had the mandate to let loose with the 3-pointers that have been a part of his offseason training regimen for several years. They’ve been part of his game for much longer, actually: While playing against his older brothers in the San Fernando Valley, he had to shoot from outside or they would simply block his shots.

“They weren’t really nice older brothers,” Lopez said with a grin.

Lopez already has a personal connection to one young Lakers forward: Nance dunked on Lopez spectacularly last season. Lopez acknowledges he thought Nance was robbed in the Dunk of the Year competition at the NBA awards show.

“I think I got a better view of it than anyone,” he said.

Lopez went to high school in Fresno before attending Stanford, but he was an adolescent when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant teamed up for their dominant years. The Lopez clan is “absolutely a Lakers family,” Brook said, and he has proof: His twin brother, Chicago center Robin Lopez, has the middle name Byron in tribute to Lakers shooting guard and former coach Byron Scott.

“But don’t worry, you got the better twin,” Lopez said.