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Brook Lopez trying to embrace diminished role with Lakers

Lakers center Brook Lopez, a former Net, shown

Lakers center Brook Lopez, a former Net, shown here against the Clippers on Oct. 13, 2017, says he likes being a leader for the rebuilding club. Credit: AP / Kelvin Kuo

LOS ANGELES — Brook Lopez insisted revenge was the last thing on his mind when he faced the Nets on Friday night at Staples Center for the first time since they traded him to the Lakers on June 20. Asked if it felt awkward to play the team he represented for nine seasons, Lopez said, “No. It honestly wasn’t at all. It wasn’t.”

In fact, Lopez made it look easy, scoring 34 points (including 6-for-9 three-point shooting), gathering a game-high 13 rebounds and blocking three shots in 30 minutes to lead the Lakers to a 124-112 victory.

After scoring a Nets franchise-record 10,444 points, Lopez has been forced to adjust to a lesser role in his 10th season. He scored 27 in their last-second loss Thursday night at Portland but was averaging a career-low 13.6 points in just 24.1 minutes coming into the Nets game.

Despite his low numbers and playing time, Lopez previously told Newsday he enjoys being a leader for a rebuilding, young Lakers team. “I’m just trying to lead in whatever way I can, lead by example, be a vocal leader, leading out on the floor,” Lopez said. “The great thing about this team is we all have that accountability. We accept our responsibility, and we have the respect for one another where we can call each other out in games or in practice and no one’s going to get hurt.

“For our young group, the age range we have on this team is exceptional. It gives us an advantage in building and getting better down the road. We have a group that’s really buying into what we’re doing and truly believes we can be very successful at this level.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton called Lopez a calming presence, and the big man agreed. “I absolutely try to have that calming effect,” he said. “That helped us keep control . . . That’s just the kind of guy I am. I keep the variables down.”

Although Lopez said he doesn’t follow the Nets, he certainly was disturbed by the news of point guard Jeremy Lin suffering a season-ending ruptured patella tendon in the season opener.

“That was tough,” said Lopez, who hasn’t spoken to Lin since the injury. “I know what it’s like going through that. It was tough to see, especially first game. So I wish him nothing but the best recovery-wise. I know he’ll be working to get back on the floor.”

Notes & quotes: Before the game, the Brooklyn chapter of the Professional Basketball Writers Association presented Lopez the Darryl Dawkins Award for his professionalism last season in dealing with the local community of writers.

New York Sports