Brook Lopez couldn’t simply stick a finger in each ear and drown out all that Dwight Howard talk.
All offseason, his name has been mentioned as a trade chip for Howard, something that’s now going to be put on the backburner until at least Jan. 15, when he’s eligible to be traded again after signing his four-year, $61-million deal with the Nets.
Lopez plans on using those constant trade rumors as fuel this upcoming season in Brooklyn.
“There is definitely a motivational factor,” Lopez said at a press conference this morning inside the New York Marriott at Brooklyn Bridge. “I tried to ignore it as much as possible, but the little bit that I do hear, yes, I definitely use it as motivation.”
Just before free agency started, Avery Johnson actually drove 45 miles to another part of New Jersey to talk with Lopez, where he was conducting a youth basketball camp. Johnson wanted to do his best to assuage Lopez’s feelings since the murmurs about a potential deal sending him to Orlando for Howard were only going to increase with intensity.
“He understood where I was and how I feel about him,” Johnson said. “The main thing is, when your name is brought up in rumors and trade speculation, I told him to take it as flattery because you are wanted by other teams. With Brook being one of the top five centers in the NBA, we’re glad it’s worked out where he’s here.
“He’s obviously drawing some attention from different teams, but he’s home, he’s with the Nets. He’ll be in the Nets lineup opening night at the Barclays Center and that’s all that matters.”
Lopez, who played only five games last season due to foot injuries, said he’s progressed well in his rehab and there’s not much he can’t do physically at this point, adding that he’s able to dunk. But he also knows he can’t say for certain that he’s fully healthy until he starts scrimmaging and bangs around a bit.
That’s why he’s eager to get this thing cranked up relatively soon.
“I’m very anxious to start the season off,” he said. “I’m counting down the days. I don’t know the last time I’ve been this excited to start the season.”