Brooklyn Nets: The Journey of Brook Lopez, “Mr. Nets”

Mar 13, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) in the second half at Barclays Center. Milwaukee defeats Brooklyn 109-100. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 13, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) in the second half at Barclays Center. Milwaukee defeats Brooklyn 109-100. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

While the scenery for the Brooklyn Nets has changed quite a bit for the last eight years (both figuratively and literally), one thing has remained the same: Brook Lopez producing in a Nets uniform.

For years, Brook Lopez has been considered the Brooklyn Nets’ rock. So much so, that he’s earned the nickname “Mr. Nets.” He’s spent his entire career with the team, and he has been the leading contributor for many of those years. Lopez is one of the rare players the Nets can say they drafted and brought up for his career. Today and for past years, Lopez is a well-respected center in the NBA.

Take a look at Lopez’s journey with the Nets so far.

The Early Years 

Nov 15, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez (42) at Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Lopez spent two seasons playing college ball at Stanford University, and he surely made his case for why he deserved to be a first-round pick in the NBA draft. His efforts in the 2007-08 season earned him First Team All-Pac 10 honors and Third Team All-American honors. He decided to declare for the NBA draft after that season.

In that 2008 NBA draft, the Nets took Lopez with the 10th pick. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lopez burst onto the NBA scene, appearing in all 82 games in his rookie year and starting in 75 of them. In his rookie year, Lopez averaged 13 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game, while shooting 53 percent from the field in 30.5 minutes per game. It was clear from the start that Lopez was going to be a big part of the team.

Lopez backed up his impressive rookie year with an even better sophomore campaign. He started in all 82 games and averaged 18.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game, while shooting 49.9 percent from the field. While the Nets had one of their historically poor seasons in their franchise history, they knew that a star was born.

Lopez’s third year was as ultra-consistent as his previous two, as he started in all 82 games again and posted impressive numbers. He averaged over 20 points per game (20.4 to be exact) for the first time in his career and shot 49.2 percent, but saw a dip in his rebounding production (six rebounds per game). The Nets continued to struggle, but Lopez was a bright spot.

Injury Problems Emerge

Jan 9, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) gives five as he walks to the bench during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

After three straight seasons of never missing a game, it seemed inevitable that Lopez would be able to complete a fourth straight with a shortened NBA season due to the lockout. However, Lopez showed his first sign of weakness in his NBA career after breaking his foot right before the 2011-12 season. He missed the first 32 games, then returned to play only five games before being shut down for the rest of the season after re-aggravating the injury.

Despite the injury, the Nets signed Lopez to a four-year, $62 million extension. He didn’t disappoint, as he was named an NBA All-Star during his 2012-13 season. It was Lopez’s first All-Star selection, and his only one so far in his career. That season, he averaged 19.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, and a career-high 2.1 blocks per game. His supporting cast included Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Gerald Wallace. Along with the others, he helped lead the Nets to a 49-33 record (the best record Lopez has been a part of) and the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference, but the Nets were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in seven games.

Despite the successful season, Lopez struggled with an ankle injury at points, which forced him to miss eight games.

Injuries Riddle Lopez’s Prime

Dec 3, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) reacts after making a shot late in the fourth quarter against the San Antonio Spurs at the Barclays Center. The Nets defeated the Spurs 95-93. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Now healthy, with five seasons under his belt and a newly-improved Nets team, it appeared as if Lopez was ready to take his game to the next level.

He started off the 2013-14 season strong, averaging 20.7 points per game and 6.0 rebounds per game while shooting 56 percent from the field in his first 17 games. However, in his 17th game of the season against the 76ers, Lopez injured his foot again in what ended up being a season-ending injury. In the span of three seasons (2011-2014), Lopez missed a total of 150 games (excluding the playoffs).

The injuries proved to riddle Lopez in what was supposed to be the beginning of his prime. At the time, the Nets were a winning team, but Lopez had a hard time staying on the court. It’s interesting to wonder what could have been had he remained healthy, as he did miss the playoffs that year.

When he returned in the 2014-15 season, he appeared in 72 games, but only started in 44 of them. Despite the decrease in minutes, Lopez was still able to average 17.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Although the Nets struggled again, it seemed as if Lopez had finally gotten over his injury bug. It appeared he was ready to get back to his early career form.

However, there was a chance that Lopez wouldn’t return to the Nets. He opted out of his contract and decided to test free agency.


The Present and the Future

Jan 18, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) celebrates his basket against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the 2015-16 season, Lopez ended up resigning with the Nets on a three-year deal. He then had one of his best individual seasons. Lopez averaged 20.6 points per game, his career-high in seasons where he played more than 17 games. He also averaged 7.8 rebounds per game, a significant increase to what he produced in the middle of his career.

He led the team in points per game and blocks per game, was second in rebounds per game, and third in field goal percentage.

Now 28 years old and entering his ninth NBA season, Lopez is a seasoned veteran who can surely still produce. The Nets are a new look team now with Jeremy Lin. While the Nets’ expectations aren’t great, they have the chance to be better than they have in the past.

While there has been speculation and belief that the Nets will trade Lopez, nothing serious has come out just yet. There have been rumors that Lopez would be traded many times in his career, but through it all, he has stayed put. Until he is actually traded, if ever, Lopez is and will be “Mr. Nets.” Assuming nothing changes, this year will be the same as it always has: Lopez as the face of the Brooklyn Nets.

As the face of the franchise for the past eight years, it goes without saying that Lopez has a special place in the hearts of Nets fans. He has given his all to the team through thick and thin. Lopez has demonstrated great levels of character and loyalty. No matter how many NBA honors Lopez racks up in his career, he will always be considered an All-Star to the Nets and their fans.

To be continued…

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