MILWAUKEE – HIDDEN INSIDE A blue bottle with a yellow label that reads “Brook’s Secret Stuff” lies in Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez’s locker during a home game at the Fiserv Forum during the final week of the regular season.
It’s the first thing Lopez snaps after he finishes his pregame shooting routine on the court and returns to the locker room, a tradition that dates back to his days as a member of the Brooklyn Nets.
The bottle doesn’t contain the same placebo that the Looney Toons used to fuel their second-half comeback against the Monstars, but Lopez appreciates the nod to the movie Space Jam. Lopez has been drinking his “secret stuff,” essentially a pre-game energy mix, since shortly after joining the league, but it wasn’t until he arrived in Milwaukee that the team’s training team capitalized on his love of animation and created the bottle and label for him.
“I do it 30 minutes before every game, try to do it on time, 30 minutes,” Lopez told ESPN in April. “[The Bucks’ training staff] got it from there. This is your insider tip. We have to make it official.
Last season, Lopez acted like he believed the drink would give him Monstar-level talent. At age 34, he was averaging 15.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks while shooting 53% from the field and 37% from 3-point range. He scored at least 20 points in 26 games last season, equaling his total points in his first four regular seasons at Milwaukee. And after back surgery that cost him most of last season, Lopez recovered, played 78 games and finished second in the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year polls, behind 23-year-old Memphis Grizzlies star Jaren jackson jr
In his 15th season in the NBA, Lopez transformed into the best version of himself — and a version of himself that was almost unrecognizable compared to the player he was when he first came to the league. Lopez is now a 3-and-D seven-footer, capable of splitting the ground for Giannis Antetokounmpo while punishing teams on the inside for disagreements and causing opposing players to color themselves questioning. And his return to Milwaukee on a two-year, $48 million deal solidifies a core that’s already won a championship in 2021 and is looking for another.
“Without what Brook is doing, we’re not here,” Bucks guard Wesley Matthews said at the start of the 2023 postseason. “Giannis is the MVP; jrue [Holiday] is the best point guard in the league in my opinion; Chris [Middleton] is one of the best closers in the league, we have one of the deepest teams in the league but Brook is just as important right there as anyone.”
WHO IS THE Nets’ all-time top scorer.
It’s a trivia question that might baffle even the most die-hard NBA fan. It’s not Julius Erving, who only played three seasons with what was then the New York Nets of the American Basketball Association. It’s not Vince Carter who has a career 25,000+ points, just 8,834 with the then-New Jersey Nets. It’s not Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving who rank second and fourth in the Nets’ career points per game but haven’t spent nearly enough time in Brooklyn to have a high scoring.
With 10,444 career points earned as a Net (both in New Jersey and Brooklyn), it’s Lopez who still holds the rank as the franchise’s all-time career points leader.
Perhaps just as surprising, given the kind of player Lopez has become, only 411 of those 10,444 points came from off the arc.
Lopez, the Nets’ 10th overall pick in the 2008 draft from Stanford, made a living with the franchise as a back-to-the-basket post-threat, averaging at least 20 points per game four times in seven seasons from 2010-11 through 2016-17.
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was the Eastern Conference All-Star coach at Lopez’s only All-Star appearance in 2013 and recalled what kind of player the center was back then.
“He was a low post guy, so he has those skills,” Spoelstra said during the 2023 playoffs. “He’s not just a Space Five. I think that’s what people are probably forgetting about who he was in Brooklyn.”
During his final season in Brooklyn, 2016-17, Lopez began the development that would make him the player he is now. After attempting a total of 31 3-pointers in the first eight seasons of his career, he made 387 3-pointers (then the eighth most in a single season in Nets history) and managed 134 of them. In a single season break, Lopez increased his 3-point attempts by 5.0 per game, the largest season-over-season increase in NBA history, according to a study by ESPN Stats & Information. Back then, his 3-point shooting percentage of 34.6% was slightly below the league average (35.8%), but it was a good first step that carried over into his only season with the Los Angeles Lakers — which was enough to end that To pique interest from the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks needed a big man who could spread the ground properly while Antetokounmpo was blossoming into a superstar. That’s why the Bucks’ new team, under then-head coach Mike Budenholzer, urged Lopez to move on.
Splash Mountain was born.
Brook Lopez receives a block and then scores a 3
Brook Lopez blocks Joel Embiid’s shot and scores a great three on the other end.
“It was really just about getting him to adapt to the system,” said Memphis Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins, who was an assistant at Milwaukee in 2018. “It was a lot of talks and a lot of work on the ground to get him.” He was good on defense but he played a lot off the post on offense but got beat in the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop Game to a deadly threat. We did different things with the spacing. He started distance to the wing, to the corners, use the 3-point shot.”
No player in NBA history has embraced the 3-point revolution so suddenly. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Lopez is the only player in league history to have five seasons with more than 100 three-pointers made and five seasons with zero three-pointers made. Lopez hit a career-high 6.3 3-pointers per game in his freshman season in Milwaukee and made 187 of them (36.5%). During his five seasons with the Bucks, he hit 539 3-pointers, the second most of any 7-footer, behind only Utah Jazz All-Star Lauri Markkanen.
“I think there’s a kind of humility that’s like the league is changing,” said Joe Ingles, who spent last season with the Bucks before agreeing to a new contract with the Orlando Magic last week. “[He said] “I’m not going to just run to the post and dominate from the post anymore, I have to figure out how to do it.”
It’s not the first time Lopez has been forced to figure out how to move forward. Foot and ankle injuries cost him most of the 2011–12 and 2013–14 seasons, limiting him to a total of 96 games over a three-year period. When he left the Bucks’ championship in July 2021, a back injury cost him all but 13 games of the 2021-22 season.
“I was lucky to have a great surgeon to take care of me for back surgery last year,” Lopez said. “And then I had a great support group. … They were jointly involved in the plan to get me out of the part of the operation where I can get back on the pitch and from there to get even better in the off-season.” Player. What I did in the off-season was try to be a better shooter and try to be effective from distance, so we tried to incorporate things into the weight room to make that transition a little easier.”
When Lopez emerged early last season, numerous team sources gushed about how fit he looked. He had spent the offseason refining his shot and working on new drills with a shooting coach. The work paid off as Lopez posted a career-best batting average of 37.4% from long range. And he still hasn’t lost his composure in the bottom position; He averaged 1.31 points per direct post-up, the second highest efficiency in the league (only behind DeMar DeRozan).
During the playoffs, where the Bucks were surprisingly defeated by the Heat in the first round, Lopez continued to perform well, averaging 19 points per game (his highest scoring in a playoff series since 2015) and shooting 41.2% on 3-point throws.
“I always imagined playing at a high level for a long time,” Lopez said. “But I’ve always had coaches who worked for me and me [twin brother] Robin out and they would let us do anything. It was almost as if they realized how basketball was going to evolve. It’s not like I’m an incredible winger or defender or anything, but having that base of skills has helped me make the transition now.”
That summer, Lopez became a free agent for the third time in his career. The first time was in 2018, when Lopez had endured a fairly losing season with the Lakers (he averaged a career-low 13.0 points on a 46.5% shot rate, which was the lowest at the time represented in his career). He was forced to settle for a one-year, $3.3 million contract with the Bucks to rebuild his value. A year later, he re-signed with Milwaukee for four years and $52 million.
Now Lopez, who told ESPN earlier this year, “I always knew I wanted to play long, I never imagined my career would ever stop,” is back with the Bucks with a two-year contract that will see him through his season at the age of 36 and paying him $48 million, a number that reflects not only his ability but also his value to the Bucks franchise and its championship aspirations.
“Defensive Player of the Year.” [candidate] “And on offense, people always forget that this man leads a franchise in points,” Matthews said. “Brook can score.” He’s talented as hell. He puts the ball on the ground, exploiting imbalances and landing over the basket. What he’s doing defensively for us is just protecting the paint. He’s so selfless on both sides of the court.