Back at the Lakers facility with Team USA, Brook Lopez shakes off the past

August 14, 2019 4:07 AM — Posted by anaheimsigns — Posted at Sign Company ,Sign Shop

EL SEGUNDO — A North Hollywood native, Brook Lopez surely has plenty of old haunts in Los Angeles.

Maybe one of the last you’d expect is the Lakers practice facility, given that the 31-year-old center has been with the Milwaukee Bucks for more than a year. But shooting 3-pointers — his late-career specialty — in the closing minutes of a Team USA practice on Tuesday night, Lopez didn’t appear to harbor any strange feelings about taking reps where his former team practices.

“It’s honestly not that different,” he said. “It’s like coming back and getting work in. We had a great practice and great work ethic, and I had a lot of good times here. I enjoyed it.”

There was probably a time when Lopez thought he might spend more than one season with the Lakers, but last summer wound up in Milwaukee on a one-year deal for just $3.4 million before being re-signed to a multi-year contract in July — a bit of a sore subject for Lakers fans who saw Splash Mountain play a pivotal role for the Eastern Conference finalists.

That’s all the past for Lopez now: His future is with the Bucks. But there has been an upshot to joining Team USA that’s related to his brief Lakers tenure: reconnecting with teammate Kyle Kuzma, who Lopez mentored during the 2017-18 season.

Kuzma said he felt compelled to follow Lopez’s example of work ethic, noting that he was typically one of the first players back at the practice facility court the morning after a game.

“Brook’s my guy,” Kuzma said. “He’s one of the guys that I always looked at when I was a rookie as being one of the best bigs in the league when he was Brooklyn. … He was great when I was a rookie, and having a chance to play with him now is great.”

Lopez also noted that Kuzma struck him as a promising rookie. He got an inkling from their early interactions that the forward could make it in the NBA.

“I remember the first time talking to him, and we were icing — just in the cold tub, talking,” he said. “He asked all the right questions. As a rookie, he was very active and just trying to learn whenever possible. And that’s big in this league.”

Team USA sidesteps Serbian trash talk

A notably star-deficient USA roster may be emboldening other nations: Serbian coach Sasha Djordjevic made a comment on national television last week that if Serbia and the U.S. meet in the FIBA World Cup in China next month, “may God help them.”

While the comment may have been made with a hint of tongue-in-cheek, Team Serbia has good reason to be confident. Their roster includes at least four healthy NBA players, including Nikola Jokic and Bogdan Bogdanovic. While the U.S. roster is stocked with NBA players, it is lacking some of the star power it has had in the past, with players such as James Harden and Anthony Davis declining invites.

Team USA coach Gregg Popovich said he heard about the comment, but called Djordjevic “a (heck) of a coach” and a “hero” of his as a player. He also called the Serbian group “a heck of a team.”

“People will talk,” he said. “But that’s not usually something I respond to.”

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