Born in North Hollywood and raised in Fresno, one constant in Brook Lopez’s migration from Los Angeles to Central California was his love for the Lakers.
“I’m a big-time Cali guy,” Lopez said at his introductory press conference on Wednesday.
“It’s a dream come true to play for the Lakers.
“You grow up watching Kobe and Shaq and mix in Showtime with Magic. My brother (Robin’s) middle name is Byron after Byron Scott, so you know we’re absolutely a Lakers family.”
While Lopez is certainly familiar with two championship eras of Lakers basketball, he is now tasked with helping shepherd in the next generation.
A 2013 All-Star and the leading scorer in Brooklyn Nets history, the 29-year-old Lopez is still very much in his prime, as general manager Rob Pelinka expects him to help the Lakers be competitive next season, while competing alongside youngsters like Lonzo Ball, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson.
“We don’t see next year at all as a rebuilding year,” Pelinka said “We see it as a Lakers year. A lot of that is going to be centered around him and what he stands for and what we know he’ll give to this organization.”
Part of what Lopez will give to the purple and gold is shooting.
After trading away D’Angelo Russell — who shot 35.2 percent from 3-point range last season — as part of the deal for Lopez, the Lakers were left without a player on the roster who shot at least 33.0 percent from deep.*
*Nick Young (40.4 percent) declined his player option and became an unrestricted free agent.
Enter Lopez, who splashed 34.6 percent of his treys last year after going just 3-of-31 from distance across his first seven NBA seasons.
Lopez said that he always had a knack for outside shooting and that it had been part of his workout regimen for the past five or six seasons.
It was Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson who finally gave him the green light to shoot. Lopez didn’t disappoint, making use of the skill he crafted as a boy who was too small to drive in the paint against his two older brothers.
”I had to learn how to score other ways,” he said. “One of those ways was shooting from outside, so I always felt that I had a touch.”
Lakers management hopes that Lopez’s ability rubs off on the younger bigs he will be mentoring.
Ivica Zubac flashed his range as a rookie, though he typically stuck closer to the basket. Meanwhile, 42nd-overall draft pick Thomas Bryant — who shot 38.3 percent on 3’s at Indiana last year — was selected in hopes of becoming a threat from the perimeter, much like Lopez.
“He transformed his game last year from being just a low-post presence to now being one of the best stretch fives in the game,” Pelinka said of Lopez.
On top of his ability to space the floor, Lopez also brings a strong inside game, having averaged the league’s fourth-most points on post-ups (5.2) and the second-most total points of any center (20.5).
On the other end of the floor, he contested the NBA’s third-most shots (14.6) and ranked seventh in blocks (1.65).
This inside-outside, two-way game has Pelinka excited for the coming year.
“We feel very strongly that he’s worth every dollar he negotiated to play this season,” Pelinka said.