If this is how Brook Lopez plays in response to trade rumors, the Nets should leak offers on a daily basis.
Reports in the past 24 hours surfaced that the Nets were looking at multiple offers for Lopez. The Oklahoma City Thunder led the chase. The Charlotte Hornets weren’t far behind. The Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, and Los Angeles Lakers had all reportedly shown interest. With so many suitors, it seemed inevitable the Nets would pull the trigger.
"I like being here. I’ve been here my whole career. I’m kind of partial to it now." — Brook Lopez
— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) January 17, 2015
Until they didn’t. The Nets elected to wait on Lopez deals, and he responded with his best game of the calendar year, scoring 26 points on 8-14 shooting and 10-12 at the free throw line.
“I’ve been on the block for about six-and-a-half-years,” Lopez joked to reporters after the game.
It didn’t look like a strong Lopez game at first. He didn’t even convert his first bucket until midway through the third quarter, a thunderous dunk off a pretty Jarrett Jack feed.
But once the dam broke, the waterfall was on: Lopez scored 25 of his 26 points in the second half, hitting 7 of 13 shots and 9 of 10 free throws in just 18 second-half minutes.
Yes, critics, he only grabbed three rebounds on the night, but it didn’t hurt the Nets any — they out-rebounded the Wizards 19-16 with Lopez on the floor.
Lopez’s excellence stood in sharp contrast to his play of late. While Lopez has been relegated to a high-volume jump shooter in the Nets offense, the Nets’ seven-footer looked much more aggressive attacking the basket, only relying on his set shot when wide open, and barreling into an interior defense to get good looks and draw fouls.
“(He played with) a fire and a sense of urgency,” coach Lionel Hollins said of Lopez, via YES Network. “He was free.”
One game does not a superstar make, and Lopez will need to continue to build on this play. Remember, he scored 29 points in their dominant victory over the Chicago Bulls on December 30th, and the Nets promptly went 1-7 in the next eight games. He — and the team — need to string together more than one solid outing every two to three weeks.
But performances like that, against a tough defensive team on the road, are why you wait out a potential Brook Lopez trade when your best offer is a salary dump.