Twenty-nine-year-old Brook Lopez was born in North Hollywood and spent his entire amateur life in the state of California, notably attending Stanford University.
On Wednesday, the California kid arrived in El Segundo for his introductory press conference.
Aquired via trade with the Brooklyn Nets, Lopez is the latest 7-footer to don the famous Los Angeles Lakers' purple and gold colors. Lopez will wear No. 11, which should be a hit with the Lakers' Latino fans for obvious reasons.
Though the trade with Brooklyn that sent Timofey Mozgov and D'Angelo Russell to Brooklyn in exchange for Lopez and the draft rights to Kyle Kuzma has been widely framed as a salary dump designed to open up salary cap space in the summer of 2018 — which it most certainly is and does — the fact remains that Lopez is not an aged veteran or a dinosaur the Lakers are humoring with a starting spot on a team that is obviously rebuilding.
In a year when Brooklyn finished with the worst record in the NBA, Lopez experimented and transformed his game. After averaging no more than 0.2 three-point attempts for the first eight years of his career, the 268-pound center attempted 5.2 three-pointers per game and made 34.6 percent of them.
To put Lopez's sharp shooting in perspective, the former Nets center would have been the fourth best percentage three-point shooter on the Lakers' roster at the end of the 2016-17 season — behind only Nick Young (40.4 percent), Tyler Ennis (38.9 percent) and Russell (35.2 percent). In terms of attempts, the only Lakers that attempted more three-pointers per game than Lopez were Russell and Young.
To put it bluntly, the Lakers gave up an old-world center in Mozgov, along with his bloated contract, and got back a legitimate three-point shooting 7-footer that fits the modern game. Considering Lopez's long range shooting percentage is only 0.6 percent below Russell's average, one could easily argue that the Lakers replaced Russell's long ball with Lopez's long ball. And yes, the center should conceivably improve on the shot that has only been a regular part of his arsenal for one season.
While the salary dump motivations of the trade are impossible to deny and even the Lakers' front office admitted as much in the wake of the trade, one should also acknowledge that Lopez is the best center the Lakers have had since Pau Gasol — no disrespect intended toward Carlos Boozer, Chris Kaman, Roy Hibbert and Mozgov.
Lopez's ability to stretch the floor may even lead to the Lakers playing with bigger lineups at the end of games, which would be a break from what Lakers coach Luke Walton opted for in his first season on the sidelines. Lopez could offer the team the opportunity to retain offensive spacing while still maintaining a 7-foot defensive anchor in the paint.
Frankly, as much as the Lopez trade could go down as a straight salary cap move, the offensively skilled big man with range could just as easily crash that narrative and find a long-term home in LA when he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2018.
Lakers Bringing Back David Nwaba
On Wednesday, the Lakers also announced that the team had decided to pick up a contract option on guard David Nwaba. Nwaba, who was born in LA and grew tall in the City of Angels, earned an unlikely call-up from the LA D-Fenders late in the 2016-17 season. Nwaba appeared in 20 games for the Lakers and particularly showcased athleticism, fitness and defensive focus.