The Big Man in the Big City: Why Brook Lopez Is Due for a Big Year in Brooklyn
*Photo via NYPost
Experts predict that the Brooklyn Nets are going to be one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference this year. With the departure of Deron Williams, a number of Nets players will need to step up to ensure that they duplicate the team’s success of the past two seasons.
For a number of reasons, one player that I think will have a great year is center Brook Lopez, who has proven himself to be arguably one of the best centers in the league, when healthy.
Going Through the ‘Hollins’ Tunnel
One of the reasons why I believe that Lopez is destined for a great year is that he will have another full year under head coach Lionel Hollins. Hollins is a great coach and he usually is at his best coaching up big men. Just ask Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph how helpful Coach Hollins was to their development.
Hollins has proven his worth in his one year with the Nets already. Last year, both Lopez and other Nets center, Mason Plumlee, saw tremendous improvements in their games under his tutelage. It took some time for them to buy in, but once they did, the results were extremely positive.
The Nets got off to a shaky start to the season, and things were looking bleak. Hollins was not pleased with the team, and was especially upset with his star center Brook Lopez. It got to a point to where he even benched Lopez for a while.
Ironically enough, it was when Lopez got hurt that things turned around. Mason Plumlee got more playing time, and was thriving in his bigger role. I don’t know whether Lopez’ absence allowed him more time to study concepts, or he saw the writing on the wall. Whatever the reason, Lopez came back a new man.
Enter Brook Lopez 2.0
Lopez eventually returned to the lineup and was on a tear! He really hit his stride in the middle of March, where he averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds a game. For his outstanding play, he was awarded the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the last two weeks of March as well.
He continued his great play for the rest of the season, which benefited the entire Nets’ team. He seemed to be a more complete player, and was contributing on both sides of the ball. Not only was he scoring at a high level again, but also he was defending and even rebounding (shocking, I know!).
With another year under Coach Hollins, and a better understanding of what’s expected of him, Lopez should be poised for a great year. Now that Deron Williams is gone, the offense will run through Lopez more so than before. Coach Hollins will preach to Lopez that if he wants to continue to see a high number of touches on offense, he will need to earn them by being better defensively and on the boards.
Hollins is an old school guy who believes in a tough, defensive minded team. In order for that to happen, he needs his bigs to anchor the defense and rebound in order to limit second chance opportunities. If he can get that out of Brook Lopez this year (and I’m betting that he will), we are going to see a much-improved player and even more importantly, a much-improved team.