Brooklyn Boro

Brook Lopez, Brooklyn’s Mr. Net, headed to La-La Land

Lopez Dealt to Lakers for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov

June 21, 2017 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After nine seasons with the Nets franchise, including the last five here in Brooklyn, Brook Lopez was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, returning to his North Hollywood, California roots. AP Photo by Tony Gutierrez

Mr. Net is now a Laker.

Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks continued to overhaul his roster Tuesday by reportedly dealing Brook Lopez and one of the team’s two first-round picks in Thursday night’s NBA Draft to Los Angeles for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov, a move that signals the end of any trace of the team that arrived here in Downtown Brooklyn back in 2012.

Lopez, who had played every one of his 562 NBA games as a member of the Nets’ franchise, will now be much closer to his North Hollywood, California roots.

The always-humble 7-footer out of Stanford spent most of his nine years in New Jersey and Brooklyn at the center of virtually every type of trade rumor imaginable, be it at the trade deadline or during the offseason.

Throughout it all, he remained adamant that the Nets were the only team he wanted to play for, and that he relished being part of the massive rebuilding project undertaken by Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson following back-to-back 60-loss campaigns.

“I’d love to see a legacy started here and a winning tradition and franchise built here and I’d love to be part of that foundation,” Lopez said in April, just moments after becoming the Nets’ all-time leading scorer following a loss in Boston.

Despite his wishes, Lopez, who will turn 30 next April and has missed huge chunks of two seasons due to nagging foot issues, was clearly worth more to the Nets as trade bait than as part of the floundering franchise’s future plans.

Russell, a budding 21-year-old star who will now work side by side with Jeremy Lin in the remodeled Brooklyn backcourt, is coming off a solid sophomore campaign with the Lakers.

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He averaged 15.6 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game for Los Angeles this past season, and his exile to Brooklyn clears the way for the once-dynastic Lakers to do some rebuilding of their own via almost-certain first-round draft choice Lonzo Ball of UCLA.

Mozgov, who has three years and more than $50 million remaining on a deal he signed with Los Angeles this past offseason, was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers when they captured the NBA title following the 2015-16 campaign.

The 7-foot-1 Russian put up 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest over 54 games in Los Angeles last year.

The deal, which will not be made official until after Thursday night’s draft at Downtown’s Barclays Center, likely removes the Nets from the ongoing Milos Teodosic free-agent sweepstakes.

The Nets and several other teams have spent most of this summer positioning themselves to sign the free agent from CSKA Moscow, who is considered one of the best veteran point guards available.

Russell, who is owed approximately $6 million per year on the final two seasons of his rookie contract, and Lin, entering the second of a three-year, $36 million pact, will team to provide Brooklyn with its most potent guard combination since the franchise relocated here in 2012, when All-Stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson manned the Barclays backcourt.

Lopez was the last remnant of the club that made three straight postseason appearance upon its arrival here, going as far as the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2013-14.

But the Nets have endured two brutal campaigns since, going a combined 41-123 during that stretch, mostly due to the team’s inability to refresh its roster via the NBA Draft.

Former Brooklyn general manager Billy King dealt so many future draft picks to Boston in exchange for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett back in the summer of 2013 that the Nets lost the rights to the potential first pick overall this year, and also won’t have control of their first-rounder following next season.

That has prompted Marks to go overseas and rely heavily on the free-agent market to rebuild the roster. The Nets will have the 22nd overall pick Thursday night at Barclays, but are unlikely to land an impact player at that spot.

Landing Russell, whose ceiling remains high though he hasn’t come close to reaching it yet, puts the heat on Atkinson, known as one of the best player-development coaches in the game, to make this deal a game-changer for Brooklyn basketball.

With attendance numbers sagging during the past three years, the Nets have been struggling to remain relevant on the New York sporting scene.

It is now up to Marks, Atkinson and the soon-to-arrive Russell to rebuild the Brooklyn brand and re-establish a winning tradition on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

* * *

Jake Simon’s much-anticipated Brooklyn pitching debut didn’t go quite as well as planned Tuesday night as the Cyclones opened their 17th season in Coney Island with a 7-4 loss to the visiting Staten Island Yankees in front of 7.271 fans at MCU Park.

Simon, a tall right-hander from Texas whom the parent-club Mets selected in the 2015 MLB Draft, yielded three runs on two hits with four walks and four strikeouts over four innings after having his scheduled Cyclones debut pushed back a day following Monday night’s rainout in Staten Island.

“Simon did a pretty good job,” Edgardo Alfonzo said following his managerial debut on Surf Avenue. “He did what was expected. He gave us a pretty good chance.”

The Cyclones’ bullpen, however, did not.

St. John’s alum Joe Napolitano (0-1) took the loss in relief after surrendering four runs on two hits while striking out two and walking three over two frames.

Brooklyn catcher Carlos Sanchez doubled and drove in two runs for the Cyclones (0-1), who were scheduled to visit Vermont Wednesday night in pursuit of their first win of the year.

 

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