Lakers' Lopez comes back to Brooklyn to face Nets
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NEW YORK -- For nine seasons, Brook Lopez survived numerous coaches and teammates, played home games in three arenas and avoided getting traded several times.
Lopez finally was traded by the Nets last June for D'Angelo Russell and Friday the franchise's career scoring leader returns as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Nets used their first-round pick in 2008 to select Lopez out of Stanford. He began his career on the first team after Jason Kidd was traded, played two seasons in the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., and was the leading scorer on a 70-loss team.
Lopez heard his name linked to various deals for Dwight Howard, who was then with the Orlando Magic, and was almost dealt to Oklahoma City for Reggie Jackson in 2015.
In 2017, he finally was traded on draft night for Russell, who was viewed as a disappointment in his two seasons with the Lakers and was cast off so Los Angeles could draft Lonzo Ball.
Ball is recovering from left knee soreness and won't play Friday night.
The question is how much will Lopez play on a night when he is certain to get a video tribute and rousing applause from fans.
Lopez, who is a free agent after this season, played eight minutes for the second straight game when the Lakers dropped a 127-105 decision on Wednesday at Orlando. He is averaging career lows of 11.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 20.6 minutes in his 42 games for Los Angeles.
The Lakers are 8-4 in their last 12 games after losing 11 of 12 from Dec. 12 to Jan. 5. Lopez is averaging 17.1 minutes in his last 14 games and has sat in the fourth quarter in 16 of his last 18 games, including Wednesday when he was visibly frustrated.
"I mean, especially on the court, I can be very visible, with my emotions," Lopez told reporters after practice Thursday. "So yeah, just trying to control myself, breathe a little bit, and just keep cool because it was an unfortunate game for us. Just watching it, it was tough to be out there. Just trying to get settled a little bit."
Regardless of how many minutes Lopez plays, the Lakers will be hoping to rebound from allowing 18 3-pointers in a game they trailed for the final 41-plus minutes.
"It was just garbage," Lakers forward Julius Randle told reporters. "Our effort and our focus wasn't there. That was it."
The ugly defensive display Wednesday occurred two nights after the Lakers saw a four-game win streak stopped by allowing 123 points in a 12-point loss at Toronto.
"We weren't committed to guarding anyone tonight," Lakers coach Luke Walton said.
Lopez is the Nets' scoring leader with 10,444 points. He also is the franchise leader in blocks (972) and field goals (4,044), and he would have overtaken Buck Williams for the lead in games played if not for several foot injuries. Instead, Lopez is second with 562 games and third in minutes played (18,118).
Brooklyn's end of the deal has experienced some bumpy moments as Russell missed two months recovering from left knee surgery. He is averaging 16.9 points this season and nine points since returning Jan. 19 vs. Miami.
The Nets are 3-3 in the six games that Russell has played since returning. He scored 32 points in his first five games before getting 22 in Wednesday's 116-108 home win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Russell is averaging about 16 minutes since returning and has not played more than 21 minutes since returning. He will continue to have his minutes monitored again Friday.
"I'm just trying to push my body," he said. "I'm not really focused on stats or numbers or anything like that, I just want to push my body to see how I feel and take what the defense gives me. Every game that's been my main focus."
In Russell's lengthy absence, Spencer Dinwiddie emerged as a production backcourt option. He scored 27 points on Wednesday and leads the team with 13 20-point games.
Wednesday's win occurred after the Nets dropped their previous three games by a combined 55 points.
"We've got guys with a lot of pride and they always seem to bounce back after a tough loss or a poor performance," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said.
While Lopez's numbers are significantly down, his best game of the season occurred in a 124-112 win over his former team on Nov. 3. Lopez scored a season-high 34 points on 13 of 23 from the field and made six 3-pointers. Russell finished with 17 points.
Updated February 1, 2018