Center of attention: Bucks' Brook Lopez lights out from 3

ABS-CBN Sports on Nov 15, 2018 08:34 PM
Center of attention: Bucks' Brook Lopez lights out from 3
Milwaukee Bucks' Brook Lopez shoots a three-point basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

By Genaro C. Armas, Associated Press

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A new nickname for Brook Lopez started floating around Twitter after the Milwaukee Bucks seven-footer had a career night from the three-point line.

″Splash Mountain.” How appropriate for a self-described Disney aficionado who is quickly developing a reputation as one of the best-shooting big men in the NBA.

“I’m pretty partial to that honestly,” Lopez said with a laugh about the moniker this week. “I’m a pretty big Disney geek ... I wear it with pride on my sleeve.”

Keep shooting the way he did on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) against the Nuggets and he might challenge the “Splash Brothers” in Golden State for three-point supremacy.

Lopez hit a career-best eight three's and scored 28 points to help the Bucks beat Denver to split a four-game Western Conference road trip.

This wasn’t just a one-night-only performance, either.

Entering the Bucks' game on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) against Memphis, Lopez was tied for seventh in the league in made three's (39) and was 14th in attempts (93), shooting 41.9 percent from behind the arc.

A career 34 percent three-point shooter, Lopez said he had hoped coming into his first season in Milwaukee was to eclipse 40 percent.

“Not necessarily that I’m going in worrying about makes or misses, but that’s a personal goal,” Lopez said. “You have to go in with a mindset, just if you’re open you’re going to shoot your shot.”

It’s a remarkable goal when considering just how far Lopez has come along as a three-point shooter in such a short period of time.

The 11-year veteran spent his first nine NBA seasons with the Nets after being drafted 10th overall in the first round out of Stanford in the 2008 draft. But he didn’t hit his first triple until Jan. 10, 2015, when he was 1 for 2 in a 98-93 loss to the Detroit Pistons.

It was the only three he would hit that season. He made just two the following season.

The transformation happened before the 2016-17 season, when Kenny Atkinson became head coach after serving as assistant under then-Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

“At the time, it was kind of the system that we ran in Brooklyn,” Lopez recounted in explaining why he took up the three. “It was something he wanted to implement, and he had great confidence that I could do it.”

Lopez said he was already comfortable hitting mid-range and long jumpers in game situations. Spotting up from behind the arc was something he did in pickup games with friends growing up, but he didn’t have the confidence to shoot three's in games.

So he put in a lot of work on his shot before the 2016-17 season, working out in team drills where they would practice five-out looks. Personal workouts were devoted to shooting three's.

“It was a step just from shooting them, and my practice and workouts, and shooting them in games,” Lopez said. “You just have to confidence to shoot them in games.”

Lopez was 3-of-31 combined from three-point territory over his first eight seasons. He was 134-for-387 (34.6 percent) in 2016-17.

Lopez moved on to the Lakers last season, when he was 112-of-325 from three (34.5 percent). He’s well on pace to shatter that his career bests in just 13 games with the Bucks.

Milwaukee is undergoing its own transformation with Budenholzer now coaching of the team. He has instituted a similar system Taking Milwaukee that stresses proper spacing and taking good shots. If a three isn’t there, All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo can be unstoppable driving to the lane.

If defenses collapse on Antetokounmpo, he can find open shooters on the perimeter like Lopez.

“You talk to old coaches, old teammates, front-office people that have been around Brook, you almost have to ask him to get off the court” in practice, Budenholzer said.

Appropriately, Lopez took some extra time after practice, shooting three's with guards Tony Snell and Pat Connaughton before finally wrapping up.

“So the way that he’s grown his game and become just a really effective three-point shooter, a really effective player, that takes work,” Budenholzer said. “And I think we’re all reaping the benefit of that.”

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