Bucks’ Lopez on USA team thanks to unimaginable 3-point sniping

LAS VEGAS — In 2006, Ray Allen set an NBA record of 269 three-pointers in a season, which stood for 20 seasons. With the evolution of high-quantity 3-point shooting, a handful of players have impressively surpassed Allen’s record, but all by guards.

In the 2018-19 season, Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez set a 3-point record of his own, knocking down a career-high 187 3s, the most for a 7-footer in NBA history. Lopez, now in his 11th season, also became the first player in league annals to average two made 3s and two blocked shots per game.

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“I always imagined down the line I would eventually transition to spacing the floor, but just never at this level or at this volume,” Lopez said recently while at Team USA training camp.

Lopez’s floor spacing, 3-point shooting and defense is exactly what caught the eye of USA Basketball head coach Gregg Popovich and earned him an invite to be a part of the USA National team for the upcoming FIBA World Championship in China, which begins Aug. 31.

“Coach Bud [Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer] took me into the film room and let me know then,” recalled Lopez on receiving the invite. “Obviously, it was a very cool moment. A huge honor to be part of Team USA and be playing with these guys. For me, to be playing for coach Pop, that’s always been a dream. To be doing all these things is cool … It’s a huge honor at any point of your career.  I’m just proud to be out here representing my country, representing the Bucks and my family and everyone else as well. It’s incredible.”

Alongside Lopez on Team USA is his Bucks teammate, Khris Middleton, both of whom are 3-point threats.

“There’s a common theme with them — they can shoot the lights out,” said Golden State Warriors head coach and USA National team assistant Steve Kerr. “We know what Milwaukee has built and what Bud has put together in terms of an offensive juggernaut. They are so hard to guard, they can really shoot it, space the floor and make you pay.”

In the offseason the Bucks acquired Brook’s identical twin brother Robin, who has always been known more for his rim-protecting defense and inside offensive game, in contrast to the 3-point firing Brook.

However, in Budenholzer’s mad scientist offense it’s never a surprise when he lets any player shoot 3-pointers. In 14 games before he was traded last year, John Henson (13 career attempts) took 31 3s. Al Horford became a 3-point shooter under Budenholzer, who even let Dwight Howard try to give it whirl as the Atlanta Hawks head coach. Of course it didn’t pan out with Howard, but that’s the “let it fly” system in a nutshell. So, it begs the question, can Robin even shoot?

“Yeah Robin can shoot,” Brook laughed. “There’s no question that Bud is going to let everyone see if he can handle that this year. Bud is going to give him the ultimate green light; he gives it to everyone, so he’ll be firing them.”

Brook and Robin haven’t played on the same team together since their 2008 Stanford days, and in a perfect world they would be roommates during their Milwaukee reunion. However, they have fighting issues.

Oh, Brook and Robin get along great. It’s their social media celebrity cats Poupin and Prince Edward Zephyr who despise one another.

“They do not get along. We talked about living together, but if the cats don’t get along then we’re not going to be living together,” Brook said.