Prior to Wednesday night’s 119-108 victory over the Denver Nuggets, the first-time All-Star got his head shaved.
R.I.P. curly afro. For now, anyway.
“I think I had to clean it up a bit, you know?” Lopez said with a smile.
At first, it appeared that Lopez wouldn’t be partaking in the All-Star festivities.
He finished 14th in the fan balloting and wasn’t selected as a reserve by the Eastern Conference coaches. Talk about a snub.
But Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo suffered a season-ending ACL injury, opening a spot on the team, and NBA commissioner David Stern chose Lopez to fill it.
“I’m very excited. It’s a huge honor, and I can’t wait to get out there,” said Lopez, who will play for the East squad on Sunday night.
Lopez is currently averaging 19.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game for the Nets (31-22). He ranks fifth in PER (24.88) behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Tim Duncan. Brooklyn is 29-17 with him in the lineup.
Not bad for a guy who played just five games last season due to foot injuries and has had to endure constant trade rumors involving himself and Dwight Howard.
Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo was asked what Lopez’s biggest improvement has been.
“His attention to defense,” Carlesimo replied. “The fact that he’s protecting the basket as well as he is. If it’s one, that’s the clear-cut one.”
So what does Carlesimo want his 24-year-old center to get out of his first All-Star experience?
“That he enjoys the experience, which I think he’ll do, and almost everybody in their first All-Star game comes back more confident,” Carlesimo said. “You have to, because when you’re in that locker room, it’s different. The 24 guys that are there, there is a certain level of talent, and if it’s your first time there, you’re sort of looking around and saying it’s cool being here.”
Remember when everyone wondered if Lopez was worthy of the four-year, $60 million contract the Nets gave him in the offseason? So far, so good.