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Lopez Enjoying Time With Lakers, Wants To Be Player He’s ‘Capable Of Being’

Spencer Davies and Brook Lopez discuss his transition to L.A. and what he’s seeing from his new team.

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At 29 years old, Brook Lopez is in his 10th season as a pro.

The 7-foot center spent the first nine years of his career with one organization—the Nets. Whether it was the beginning stages in New Jersey or after that with the move to Brooklyn, he was “the guy” for that franchise.

“It’s gone by very fast,” Lopez told Basketball Insiders.

If it wasn’t for injuries, you could argue that Lopez would’ve earned multiple All-Star appearances in addition to his lone selection during the 2012-13 season. He took on the challenge of being a focal point and thrived as a number one option. During his time with the Nets, he averaged over 18 points and seven rebounds per game. His true shooting percentage over that span was 56.6 percent.

All good things must come to an end, though. Over the summer, Brooklyn made a change and dealt Lopez and a first-round pick (Kyle Kuzma) to the Los Angeles Lakers in a blockbuster deal that landed the Nets D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov.

So here we are. It’s a quarter of the way through the season. For the first time in his career, Lopez is playing in a different city and has a new home.

“It’s been cool,” Lopez told Basketball Insiders of the transition. “I miss my teammates and a lot of the situation in Brooklyn was great—great memories there.

“But I’ve definitely been enjoying my time in L.A. Great fanbase, teammates, staff, the culture around here is just wonderful. I’ve very fortunate to be in this position I’m in.”

On the floor, Lopez’s first go-round with his new team has taken quite a bit of adjusting. For one, he’s not being asked to be the primary scorer that he once was. Secondly, he’s playing a whole lot less, 10 minutes fewer per game, than he’s used to.

The difference in role and playing time has clearly affected his performances, as he’s only taking 11 shots per game and shooting 44.1 percent from the field. It’s only been 27 games, but both are career-lows.

It could be due to the fact that Lopez isn’t posting up nearly as much as in the past and is taking a ton of threes. It might be the change of scenery. Who knows? But mind you, this is all happening to a man who averaged over 32 minutes per game coming into this season.

Lakers head coach Luke Walton understands that Lopez is likely frustrated with his playing time, but acknowledges it’s necessary sometimes with matchups throughout the course of games.

“I think he’s probably been a little upset,” Walton said. “I’ve talked with him a few times, but a lot of the success we’ve had in fourth quarters has come with small units. The way the NBA game is, a lot of times we’re playing small units out there. Julius [Randle] has done a really nice job closing out games for us.

“There’s been multiple games where [Lopez] was penciled to go back in and finish the game like starters do and our group that was on the floor had it rollin’, so we stuck with ‘em. But I think Brook’s done an excellent job of staying professional and staying ready and getting his work in every single day. But yeah, it’s gotta be challenging when you’re playing less than you’re used to.”

When Basketball Insiders asked Lopez how he felt about the situation, he took ownership of the shortcomings and kept it simple.

“I just need to be the player I’m capable of being,” he said.

After a long road trip on the east coast, the Lakers return home on Monday. They went 2-2 on the swing despite having a real shot to go perfect, but the ball games were competitive.

L.A. took the first pair of games with back-to-back wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Hornets. The two losses they had came in an overtime thriller against the New York Knicks and a close contest with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I thought we played well the majority of the trip,” Lopez told Basketball Insiders. “I think we all felt that we had a chance to go 4-0, definitely 3-1. We let some opportunities go. We played well, again, for the vast majority, but there was a lot on us that we could’ve done better no question.”

A huge reason for the recent boost in the Lakers’ play has been Lonzo’s Ball’s development. You can see the gradual improvements as the season has progressed. The most noticeable thing about it is he’s not hesitating as much.

Over the road trip, the rookie took over 11 shots in three out of the four games and shot 45 percent overall. And even with the focus on his individual offensive game, he still kept contributing in all facets with over eight assists and seven rebounds per game.

To Lopez, he’s seeing experience as the main factor for Ball’s upward trending direction.

“We all know how talented ‘Zo is,” Lopez said. “We just knew it was a matter of time before things would turn, so we just wanted to keep playing the same way with the same energy and confidence.”

As a younger group, these Lakers seem to have that extra pep in their step. There’s a lot of talent on that team aching to win, but it’s going to take a little time for it to happen. Lopez was a part of an inexperienced Nets bunch for the last couple of years, so he can draw on that to teach his new teammates in a similar way.

“I just try to help spend some wisdom that’s come up with my experience whenever I can,” Lopez told Basketball Insiders. “I’ve tried to be a more vocal leader throughout my career. It’s something I’ve grown into. And first and foremost, lead by example on the court, in the locker room, wherever.”

Seven games under .500 isn’t where you want to be, but again, patience has to come into play here. L.A. is a competitive squad. They’re slowly but surely starting to mesh and come together on the floor. The results will come eventually, and Lopez feels they’re headed in the right direction.

“Obviously, we all have the same goal,” Lopez told Basketball Insiders. “We want to go out and win as much as possible. We have a lot of hard workers, people with the right mindset, and a lot of unselfish guys. When you have a group of players going out with those same beliefs, it makes a lot of things much easier.”

Spencer Davies is a Deputy Editor and a Senior NBA Writer based in Cleveland in his third year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past five seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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