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Thursday, April 18, 2013
Lopez on playoffs: 'I can't wait'

By Mike Mazzeo



Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez has never participated in the NBA playoffs.

That'll change Saturday night when the Nets face the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center in Game 1 of their first-round series.

"I can't wait," Lopez said Wednesday. "I've been very anxious, waiting for it while playing through these last few games. And now that it's on the horizon, I'm very excited about it."

And to think: Just three seasons ago, Lopez was a member of a 12-70 New Jersey Nets team. The franchise spent two more playoff-free years in the Garden State before moving to Brooklyn this season.

"It's really been an amazing journey," Lopez said. "It's very surreal to think back to the PowerPoint presentations that they'd show us, when management would come in and show us renderings of the Barclays Center and all the little factoids about how big Brooklyn is.

Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez will match up with Chicago's Joakim Noah in a clash of All-Star centers.
"To finally be here and now and be on the verge of the playoffs, it's pretty incredible."

Lopez, 25, played just five games last season due to a foot injury. There were concerns about his health, along with his ability to rebound and defend.

He was involved in several trade discussions for Dwight Howard, but a deal never materialized. And with their pursuit of Howard over, the Nets elected to lock up Lopez, re-signing him to a four-year, $60 million contract.

He has proved his worth ever since. Lopez, who averaged a team-high 19.4 points and 2.1 blocks per game, was Brooklyn's most consistent player this season. He finished fifth in the NBA in player efficiency rating (24.81) -- only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony were better -- and made his first All-Star team.

"It's been great," Lopez said of his first season in Brooklyn. "It's been more than I can ask for. I think that's due to my teammates around me and the fans we've had."

"I've learned so much from playing with Deron [Williams], Joe [Johnson], Reggie [Evans], Dray [Andray Blatche], guys like that," he added.

What have Lopez's veteran teammates told him about what to expect in the playoffs? "They're a whole 'nother level," Lopez said. "They're very physical, and electricity in arenas is a completely different scale."

Lopez is looking forward to the matchup with fellow All-Star Joakim Noah.

"He's great," Lopez said. "He elevates the Bulls to another level when he's on the floor, and he does so many things as a center. He really does everything very well."

Noah averaged 11.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks for the defensive-minded Bulls. But he is battling plantar fasciitis, so Lopez may be able to exploit him in the post.

Said Lawrence Frank, who coached Lopez in New Jersey for two seasons: "Brook has always had really good offensive ability. He's developed a really good back-to-basket game. He's always been a good face-up perimeter shooter and he's got great hands.

"Now what he's added is the defensive portion, and that takes time. If you look at what he's done in terms of blocking shots and his rebounding, [it] has been up from what they were last year. And his character is off-the-charts high. Great, great person."