After ten months away from the game due to a fractured foot and a mild right midfoot sprain, Nets center Brook Lopez has gotten off to an unsurprising rough start, and coach Lionel Hollins has pulled no punches about wanting his big man to improve in all facets of the game. Per Brian Lewis of the New York Post:
“[He’s] the same Brook. He can score,” Hollins said Monday, before adding, “He needs to be better defensively, he needs to be better rebounding, he needs to be better passing the ball to his teammates.”
In other words, pretty much every aspect of the game other than putting the ball in the net.
“If you saw, if you had been able to see practice today, you would’ve seen some really nice passes. It’s just being aware and trusting that your teammates are going to make plays, and understanding the game better,” said Hollins, who insists it’s not impossible for Lopez to make those improvements.
“There’s people that come into this league and their whole life they’re only asked to do one thing. And when you get to this level it takes a little more to win. I’m trying to ask him to do those things.”
Despite his propensity for passing in practice, Lopez has been one of the lowest-efficiency passers in the league; among players with at least ten games played and 25 minutes per game, only Andre Drummond and Matt Barnes create fewer points per 48 minutes from assists than Lopez’s 2.4. The offense tends to stagnate with the ball in Lopez’s hands, as he attempts to create a look for himself upon catching the ball, and he’s not getting many touches at the rim for easy dunks and layups.
It’s not just passing. Through 11 games, Lopez has averaged just 15.3 points per game, his lowest since his rookie season. His 5.4 rebounds per game, 0.6 assists per game, and 48.2 percent field goal percentage would be the lowest of his career. Lopez brushed off the idea that he can’t improve, calling it “ridiculous” to ask, per the Post:
“I’m not playing well right now — I know that. I know that even when I’ve been at my best, there’s tons of room for improvement. There’s always room for improvement. That’s a ridiculous question. Every player in the league can improve.”
At best, foot injuries can take a lengthy time to recover from for big men; at worst, they’re a death knell. Lopez has at least returned to the floor and had a couple of solid games, which would indicate he’s closer to the former than the latter. But Lopez has also said he doesn’t feel pain. How long will it take until he’s back to form?
New York Post — Nets’ Hollins gives brutal examination of Brook Lopez