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Brooklyn Nets GM intent on bringing back Brook

Lopez is Brooklyn GM’s Main Focus Whether He Opts Out or Not

May 7, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brook Lopez will be Nets GM Billy King’s main target should he opt for free agency this summer. AP photo
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You can’t take the Brook out of Brooklyn.

That was the big – as in 7-foot, 275-pound — takeaway from Nets general manager Billy King’s end-of-season media session Wednesday afternoon at the team’s training facility in East Rutherford, N.J.

Brook Lopez, coming off a dominant second half of the season that catapulted Brooklyn to its third consecutive playoff berth, is in the process of deciding whether he will opt-in to the fourth and final year of his contract, or opt out and join the 2015 free-agent fray.

Regardless of the former All-Star center’s decision, King is adamant that Lopez, who was drafted 10th overall by the then-New Jersey Nets in 2008, should remain in our fair borough for the foreseeable future.

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“Without Brook Lopez there’s no way we even get to where we got to,” King gushed, pointing to Lopez’s gaudy post All-Star break numbers of 19.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and nearly two blocks per contest.

“When you got a guy that’s getting double doubles, there’s not a lot of guys in the league that can do that,” King added.

Lopez, who has spent the majority of his career dodging trade-deadline rumors, has not yet committed to returning, or even opting out of his current four-year, $60 million pact.

He will doubtlessly receive lucrative offers from several teams if he does in fact decide to test the free-agent waters, but King doesn’t intend to let the big man dip his toes in the ocean before clamoring for his imminent return.

King also revealed that power forward Thaddeus Young, whom he acquired in a trade-deadline swap, should be back in the fold next season.

Young, a key component of Brooklyn’s late-season push to the postseason, can also opt out of his current deal and make the Nets pay a little bit more for his services in 2015-16, and going forward.

Having Lopez and Young along the interior appears vital to King’s and head coach Lionel Hollins’ plan for the Nets’ immediate future.

“We’ve got to retain those guys,” King insisted. “They say they want to be here, we want them here because then you can build around them and build with them. Every indication we’ve gotten from both of them, they want to be here, we want them here.”

With that said, but not yet done, Brooklyn will more than likely have to break up what King once dubbed “The Best Backcourt in Basketball”.

Enigmatic point guard Deron Williams, who is owed $44 million over the next two seasons, and Joe Johnson, commanding a whopping $25 million in the final year of his contract, are both potential trade candidates – if there are any takers this summer.

“We’re going to explore all options we have,” King noted. “Will there be a trade? There could be. But we’re going to look at every option to get better.”

Getting better without control of their own first-round draft pick until at least 2019 won’t be easy for the Nets.

Armed with the highest payroll in the sport since the franchise’s arrival here in the summer of 2012, Brooklyn won a meager 38 regular-season games this past season before bowing out to top-seeded Atlanta in six tough contests in the opening round of the playoffs.

It marked the second time in three seasons the Nets were ousted in the first round, and they only made it as far as the Eastern Conference semifinals the season before last, falling in five games to the Miami Heat before Jason Kidd forced his way out of town.

That makes at least one, if not two pieces of Brooklyn’s Big Three – Lopez, Williams and Johnson – expendable in the coming months.

But to hear King tell it, Lopez is the team’s one irreplaceable part, even if he did miss huge chunks of two of the previous four campaigns with foot and ankle injuries.

“The goal is to start internally,” King said. “I think we have to make sure our players get better.”

* * *

On the local private school athletic scene, the Brooklyn Friends boys’ volleyball team competed a clean sweep of its regular-season schedule with Wednesday afternoon’s straight-set (25-21, 26-24, 25-17) victory over neighborhood rival Packer Collegiate.

Not only did the Blue Pride Panthers improve to a perfect 14-0 overall, but they have not dropped a single one of their 42 sets en route to the achievement, paving the way to their top-seed status at the upcoming Athletic Conference of Independent Schools playoffs later this month.

“All the hard work has paid off throughout the season,” said long-time BFS volleyball coach Felix Alberto, who led the squad to a near-perfect 17-1 campaign and a Private School Athletic Association championship last year. “Our seniors really stepped up, staying calm and confident under pressure, to lead the younger players.

Though the Pelicans of Joralemon Street put up a strong fight in the first two sets, BFS pulled away in the third to finish off the historic feat, which can only be matched, but never surpassed by future squads.

Senior outside hitter Thomas Chamberlain led the attack Wednesday, accumulating 12 kills and nine digs. Fellow fourth-year standout Lucas Miller added 10 digs, three aces and four kills and senior setter Griffin Edwards racked up 23 assists.

“It was a total team effort for a rewarding result,” Alberto added.

The ACIS Boys’ Championship will begin May 18 at St. Francis College on Remsen Street.

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