Brook Lopez

Brook Lopez On Future With Bucks: “Can’t Imagine Being Anywhere Else”

Few NBA players are enjoying more successful contract years than Bucks center Brook Lopez, who has bounced back after missing most of last season due to a back injury and has established himself as a legitimate candidate for Defensive Player of the Year consideration.

On track for unrestricted free agency in the offseason, Lopez spoke to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype about his future and expressed a desire to remain in Milwaukee for the foreseeable future.

“I love it here,” Lopez said on Monday. “I’m so thankful for the opportunity the Bucks gave me five years ago to come here and be a part of something special. We’ve had a great time. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

Lopez spent the first nine years of his NBA career with the Nets, then was a Laker for a single season in 2017/18. He signed as a free agent with the Bucks in the summer of 2018 and has been with the franchise since then, earning an All-Defensive nod in 2020 and winning a championship in 2021 as Milwaukee’s starting center.

Lopez is no longer the 20-point-per-game scorer he was during his New Jersey and Brooklyn days, but he’s having one of the best seasons of his career in 2022/23, averaging 14.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 2.6 BPG on .505/.381/.788 shooting through 39 games (30.3 MPG).

As Scotto details, Lopez leads the NBA in contested shots and total blocks as the anchor of a Bucks defense that ranks third in the league in defensive rating (109.4). Teammates Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday advocated on Monday for Lopez’s Defensive Player of the Year candidacy and the big man admitted that he has thought about winning the award.

“It’s definitely a goal of mine,” Lopez told Scotto. “Obviously, I’m a team-first player who wants the team to be successful. We want to win a championship. That’s our main goal. It definitely would be a personal point of pride for me, and it’s a goal for myself.”

Lopez, who is earning approximately $13.9MM in the final season of the four-year contract he signed with Milwaukee in 2019, will remain extension-eligible until June 30. The Bucks would probably be reluctant to sign the 34-year-old to a long-term deal, but tacking a year or two onto his current contract seems viable.

If he were to sign an in-season extension, Lopez would be eligible for a 20% raise on this year’s salary, with 8% raises for any additional years beyond that. That would work out to $16.7MM for a one-year extension or $34.7MM over two years.

If he were to wait until free agency, Lopez would be eligible to earn any amount up to the max (projected to be $46.9MM in 2023/24), though it’s unrealistic to think he’d get an offer worth anywhere close to that amount at age 35, even after a strong season.

Central Notes: Bogdanovic, Middelton, Lopez, Haliburton

The Pistons may have the league’s worst record, but that won’t deter Dwane Casey from proclaiming that Bojan Bogdanovic deserves All-Star recognition, Mike Curtis of the Detroit News writes.

“I hope people don’t look at our record as a rebuilding team and punish him for that because to me, Bogey’s an All-Star,” the Pistons’ head coach said. “I’ve coached a lot of offensive players in my career when you talk about (Dirk) Nowitzki, (DeMar) DeRozan, a lot of those guys, Kevin Garnett. Offensively, he’s right up there with those guys as far as scoring the basketball.”

Bogdanovic, who signed a two-year extension with the Pistons early this season, is averaging a team-high 20.8 points.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Bucks forward Khris Middleton made his long-awaited return from wrist surgery early this month, but now swelling in his knee has sidelined him, Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. “I would say way better than I was last week when I stopped playing,” Middleton said Saturday. “A lot of swelling in my knee went down. Just taking it day-by-day. Just trying to make sure the next time I go back out there I’ll be out there for the long run.” Middleton missed his fifth consecutive game on Sunday, Eric Nehm of The Athletic tweets.
  • Bucks center Brook Lopez was sidelined much of last season due to a back injury. Lopez has not only been healthy this season, he has emerged as a candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year award. He told Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated that he’s humbled to be in that discussion. “Absolutely it would mean something, it would be a great honor,” Lopez said. “I’ve had a very interesting career arc. The changes I’ve had to make to my game to stay in the league, I’m proud of that and I’m proud of the player I’ve become. It would definitely be an honor.”
  • Tyrese Haliburton was held to one point the first time the Pacers faced the Heat this month. The rematch was way different, as he erupted for 43 points and set a franchise-record with 10 3-pointers on Friday. Haliburton felt he had something to prove to Miami, Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star relays. “Last time we played these guys, they really had me in check,” he said. “I just had to come out here and respond the right way.”

And-Ones: Award Frontrunners, Possible Tankers, Trade Market

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is the choice for Most Valuable Player one-third of the way through the 2022/23 NBA season, Nekias Duncan of BasketballNews.com argues in an early-season award ballot. Tatum is averaging over 30 points, eight rebounds, and four assists per game with terrific shooting numbers and is a candidate for an All-Defensive spot on the other end of the floor, according to Duncan, who contends that doing all that for the NBA’s best team makes the MVP award Tatum’s to lose.

Duncan also checks in on the NBA’s other award races, selecting Bucks center Brook Lopez as the top candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, Magic forward Paolo Banchero as the early Rookie of the Year frontrunner, and Bucks forward/center Bobby Portis as his Sixth Man of the Year choice, among others.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Which teams should be throwing in the towel on 2022/23 and focusing on next year’s draft? John Hollinger of The Athletic breaks down the potential tankers, ranging from the “pull the plug already” group (the Pistons and Hornets) to the “one injury away” tier, which includes playoff hopefuls like the Heat, Mavericks, and Raptors.
  • A panel of SI.com basketball writers – including Howard Beck, Chris Mannix, and Chris Herring – prepared for NBA trade season by identifying a player they expect to be moved, picking an intriguing team to watch, and naming a trade they’d like to see happen this season. Three of the five panelists pointed to a Bradley Beal deal as one they’re hoping for, even if it’s probably unlikely in the first season of his five-year contract with the Wizards.
  • Michael Pina of The Ringer poses and explores nine questions related to the trade market, including whether the league-wide parity we’ve seen so far this season will catalyze or stifle negotiations. Like those SI.com writers, Pina would welcome some action on the Beal front, referring to the union between the All-Star guard and the Wizards as “the most frustrating dead-end relationship in the entire NBA.”

Central Notes: B. Lopez, LeVert, Hayes, Bulls

Bucks center Brook Lopez is in the final year of his contract, which pays him $13.9MM in 2022/23. He could become a free agent this summer, but don’t expect him to land with a new team anytime soon.

I think there’s a lot of motivation for both sides, both Brook Lopez and the Bucks, either to get an extension done during the season, or to sign a new deal in the offseason,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on NBA Countdown (video link). “Milwaukee wants Brook Lopez to finish his career there. He has loved playing there.”

In addition to leading the NBA in blocked shots per game (2.9), Lopez is also averaging 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds with an excellent .502/.402/.800 shooting slash line through 20 games (31.1 minutes per night). He was limited to just 13 regular season games in ’21/22 due to a herniated disc which required surgery, but the 34-year-old certainly looks fully healthy again.

Here’s more from the Central:

  • Like Lopez, Cavaliers wing Caris LeVert is also on an expiring contract ($18.8MM). Kelsey Russo of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at LeVert’s role with the Cavs, which has already changed multiple times about a quarter of the way through the season. The 28-year-old says it was his idea to become a reserve after opening the year as the starting small forward, and while it’s been challenging when combined with recovering from an ankle sprain, he says he’s doing it for the betterment of the team. “It’s a little difficult,” LeVert said. “But I’m someone who focuses on winning. I’ve made that the most important thing. It is what it is, especially when you talk about being in the NBA and being on a really good team. It takes sacrifice. I think a lot of people don’t really realize that when you’re talking about being a part of a special group. Everybody has to sacrifice a little bit. For me, that’s just what it is this season.”
  • As the No. 7 overall pick in the 2020 draft, Killian Hayes faced high expectations entering the NBA. The Pistons guard has mostly struggled offensively during his first three seasons, but he’s played better of late starting in place of the injured Cade Cunningham, and Detroit’s patience with Hayes appears to be paying off, according to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. Since he entered the starting lineup, Hayes is averaging 11.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.4 steals on .442/.400/.889 shooting in 11 games (29.5 MPG).
  • How can the 9-12 Bulls turn their season around? Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic tackles that topic, suggesting that more minutes for rookie first-rounder Dalen Terry would be a good place to start — he has only appeared in 10 games for a total of 33 minutes thus far in ’22/23.

Central Notes: Turner, Sabonis, Lopez, Middleton, Allen

Pacers center Myles Turner is enjoying a career season now that he is fully entrenched at the five spot for Indiana, writes Law Murray of The Athletic.

The 12-9 Pacers have enjoyed a surprisingly solid start to 2022/23, and Turner has been a big part of that. The 6’11” big man out of Texas is averaging a career-high 17.1 PPG on a shooting line of .528/.377/.808. He is also pulling down a career-high 8.3 RPG, while chipping in 2.6 BPG and 1.5 APG.

“The past three or four seasons, I’ve been playing the four position,” Turner explained. Former frontcourt mate Domantas Sabonis manned the center role while Turner played mostly as a power forward. “I feel better naturally at the five. Things have just opened up for me. There’s more opportunity out there on the floor.”

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Sabonis, now with the Kings after a deadline deal last season, reflected on his new home and suggested that the trade sending him from the Pacers to Sacramento was a win-win, per Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. “We’re doing great here,” Sabonis said of his 11-9 Sacramento squad. “I was traded here to turn things around and change the franchise. I feel like we’re on a great start, there’s a lot of season left. Tyrese [Haliburton] is playing amazing, he’s playing at an All-Star level. It looks like they’re having a lot of fun. Yeah, it worked out for both sides.”
  • Bucks center Brook Lopez is looking forward to the return of All-Star teammate Khris Middleton, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Middleton is expected to make his 2022/23 season debut for Milwaukee Friday at home against the Lakers. The team without Middleton seems to have barely missed a step, and is currently the No. 2 seed in the East with a 15-5 record. “We’ve been playing the way we are, and we haven’t had an All-Star, All-NBA guy like that, just tops at his position,” Lopez reflected. “That’s scary. Obviously, we want Khris to take his time, make sure he’s healthy, get right and everything, but that’s an exciting prospect to think about.”
  • All-Star Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen continues to rehabilitate a low back contusion, per Kelsey Russo of The Athletic (Twitter link). “From what I understand he’s gotten better and then it’s just a matter of how quickly he can progress,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of Allen’s health. “It’s been slow, obviously, it’s not where he wants it to be where he’d be able to play. He’s been doing things in the water and trying it out even on game days to see, and we just won’t put him out there when he’s not in position to protect himself.”

Central Notes: S. Johnson, Pistons, Pacers, Lopez, LaVine

The eighth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Stanley Johnson spent his first three-and-half NBA seasons in Detroit, but didn’t blossom into the player the Pistons hoped he would and has bounced around the league since then. Now a free agent, Johnson said during a Twitter Q&A that he’d welcome the opportunity to return to his first NBA team, as Mike Curtis of The Detroit News relays.

“I think the group is amazing,” Johnson wrote when asked about the current iteration of the Pistons. “(Head coach Dwane) Casey is amazing. Everything over there is great, we just didn’t figure it out. I’m 26. I’d love to right the wrong. Detroit loved on me crazy. The organization did too. I had a lot of growing up and trauma to deal with at 18, 19 (years old).”

A solid, versatile defender, Johnson has a decent chance to catch on with an NBA team at some point this season, but a return to Detroit seems unlikely to happen in 2022/23. The Pistons currently have a full 17-man roster and a 3-15 record, making them a long shot to be seeking veteran role players on the free agent market.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The Pacers, who have won five in a row and nine of their last 11, look like they’re joining the Jazz as presumed lottery teams who are a little too talented to be major players in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, writes Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star (subscription required).
  • George Hill and Jrue Holiday are among the Bucks veterans who believe center Brook Lopez should be the leading candidate for this season’s Defensive Player of the Year award, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “You want my honest opinion?” Hill said. “He should have been Defensive Player of the Year for many years now.”
  • Referring to Friday’s disaster as a “career-worst night,” Bulls star Zach LaVine said after a Monday win over Boston that a conversation with his father helped him move on from his 1-of-14 showing and a late-game benching, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “He gave it to me straight,” LaVine said. “‘You played like s–t. Go play better next game. It’s as simple as that. It’s one game. You’ve played 500 games in your career. You’re going to have another bad night. Just hopefully it’s not as bad as that one. Go play better next game.'”

Central Notes: Crowder, Bucks, Lopez, Cavs, Duren, Bulls

After reporting earlier in the week that the Suns appeared to be making real progress on trading Jae Crowder – perhaps in a three-team scenario – Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports was hesitant to offer many specific details in the latest episode of his Please Don’t Aggregate This podcast on Thursday, noting that he has yet to confirm the exact framework of the deals Phoenix is discussing. However, Fischer was able to identify a presumed frontrunner for Crowder.

“The only other thing I really feel comfortable sharing and confident sharing is that people around the situation have said that Milwaukee is the most likely team to land him,” Fischer said. “I can say that.”

As Fischer notes, he reported last week that the Bucks – who have long been identified as a possible suitor for Crowder – were gauging Grayson Allen‘s trade value around the league. So if Milwaukee does make a deal for Crowder, it seems likely that Allen would be an outgoing piece, either to Phoenix or to a third team.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • After missing most of last season due to a back injury, Bucks center Brook Lopez is healthy and making a significant impact on the defensive end this season, according to Nekias Duncan of BasketballNews.com, who argues that the big man should be in the early Defensive Player of the Year conversation. Lopez is on an expiring contract and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
  • Logan Murdock of The Ringer takes a look at the Cavaliers‘ recent slump and their efforts to become a title contender without LeBron James for the first time in the 21st century. “I think for all of us, everyone is preaching championship,” Cavs wing Caris LeVert told Murdock. “I’ve been around a lot of teams, and it’s a long season. A lot of things happen within the season. So I think for us, just staying focused on the day-to-day, getting the most of each day, trying to maximize our potential each and every day will take care of all the rest of the stuff.”
  • Pistons center Jalen Duren is the NBA’s youngest player and the only one who was born after LeBron James made his NBA debut in 2003, but his teammates and coaches have been impressed with his maturity, writes Jamal Collier of ESPN.com. “He don’t feel 18. He’s not built like he’s 18,” Isaiah Stewart said of Duren, who turns 19 on Friday. “He’s built like a grown man. He’s very mature for his age.”
  • In a pair of stories for The Chicago Sun-Times, Joe Cowley considers what’s next for the enigmatic Coby White once he gets healthy and wonders if some lineup changes are in store for the struggling Bulls.

Central Notes: LaVine, Mitchell, Garland, Lopez

Bulls coach Billy Donovan provided more insight into Zach LaVine‘s condition during a session with reporters before Saturday’s game, tweets Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. Donovan admits that the team didn’t expect LaVine to miss the first two games before making his season debut tonight. However, he said decisions will have to be made based on LaVine’s level of pain and stressed that his left knee is strong after arthroscopic surgery in May.

“There’s nothing wrong with him structurally, he’s fine,” Donovan said. “It’s just something that we’ll have to manage. We knew we were going to have to manage that going into the season. We just didn’t know when or what it will look like.”

Donovan didn’t rule out back-to-backs for LaVine for the rest of the season, but he said it’s something else that will be “managed.” He explained that those decisions will be made by the medical staff in consultation with LaVine. Donovan added that the team understood that pain issues might persist even after the operation.

“But it’s not a situation where it’s going to limit him from playing,” Donovan said. “It’s just a matter of, OK, how much are all these loads and the build-up of 82 games, how much of an effect does that have on him and how does the medical staff and Zach and all of us help him get to a place where he can be really effective.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Donovan Mitchell was surprised to wind up with the Cavaliers when the Jazz decided to pull the trigger on a trade. During an appearance this week on JJ Redick’s podcast, Mitchell talked about spending the summer playing in pro-ams in Florida and thinking he might be headed to the Heat. “Miami, New York, where else?” Mitchell said. “Maybe Washington. Those were the three in my head that I thought, ‘Okay, if anything were to happen, it would probably be on that side.’”
  • Cavaliers guard Darius Garland, who missed another game tonight with a laceration of his left eyelid, hopes to return on Friday, although a source tells Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com that he may be out even longer. There’s no structural damage, Fedor adds, and Garland won’t need surgery. Fedor’s source said the swelling has eased up and Garland was able to open the eye slightly today for the first time since the injury.
  • The return of Brook Lopez is making a difference for the Bucks‘ defense, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Lopez is fully healthy after playing just 13 games last season due to back problems. “You kind of forget how important he is for our defense,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “This is my year five with him. You kind of take it for granted. But the games he didn’t play last year, you kind of realize the load you have to carry when Brook is not on the floor. Like me and Bobby (Portis), we had to do everything.”

Central Notes: Pistons, Haliburton, Dosunmu, Lopez

Marvin Bagley III‘s knee injury is the latest mishap for a Pistons team that will start the season with a diminished frontcourt, writes Mike Curtis of The Detroit News.

Nerlens Noel, who was acquired from the Knicks in an offseason trade, is reconditioning after plantar fasciitis and hasn’t played during the preseason. Rookie center Jalen Duren hurt his shoulder last week, but was able to return Tuesday. Newly acquired Bojan Bogdanovic sat out Tuesday’s game with a strained calf, and Alec Burks, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo are all dealing with injuries as well.

“It’s part of the NBA,” coach Dwane Casey said. “That’s one reason (general manager Troy Weaver) has done a good job of bringing multiple guys in. Unfortunately, the multiple guys are (sitting out, injured) behind the bench. I think it’s a freak thing. I do know that some of the guys that were behind the bench — Kevin, (Diallo) — if it was a regular season game, they’d be able to go. That’s refreshing to know that.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers seem headed for a rebuilding year, but that’s not how the players are approaching the new season, according to Michael Marot of The Associated Press. Trade deadline deals for Tyrese Haliburton and Jalen Smith have added some youthful enthusiasm to the team. “I think we’ve just got a lot of guys who love basketball, who love to compete and that’s a great place to start,” Haliburton said. “There are so many young guys and they have a lot to prove not only to the media or the naysayers but to themselves.”
  • Ayo Dosunmu will take over as the Bulls‘ starting point guard while Lonzo Ball is sidelined, per Annie Costabile of The Chicago Sun-Times. Coach Billy Donovan confirmed that Dosunmu won the role with his performance since camp opened. “Ayo right now is going to be the guy back there for us,” Donovan said. “He’s done a really good job this training camp and preseason.”
  • The Bucks are counting on better health from Brook Lopez to improve their defense, notes Jamal Collier of ESPN. The veteran center was limited to 13 games last season because of back issues, but he came to camp noticeably leaner and motivated to prove he deserves a contract extension. “He’s in the best physical condition I’ve seen,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He seems hungry. … I feel like he’s moving well at both ends of the court. His aggressiveness is in a good place.”

Central Notes: Middleton, Lopez, Stewart, Bagley, Bey

Khris Middleton won’t be ready to play by opening night as he recovers from wrist surgery. Joe Ingles is still rehabbing from a major knee injury.

So who will step up in their place? Eric Nehm of The Athletic examines potential lineup combinations the Bucks may use in their absence. Pat Connaughton will likely start until Middleton returns, though Jordan Nwora and MarJon Beauchamp will have opportunities to establish themselves as rotation pieces. Wesley Matthews and Grayson Allen will fight for minutes at shooting guard.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Middleton has a $40.4MM option on his contract for the 2023/24 season, while center Brook Lopez will be an unrestricted free agent unless he signs an extension. However, there hasn’t been any buzz about it at Bucks camp, Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. In fact, Lopez claims that “I wasn’t exactly aware this was a contract year” until the subject was brought up.
  • Isaiah Stewart and Marvin Bagley may be more suited to playing center but they’ll both see action at times at power forward this season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. That will allow Nerlens Noel and rookie Jalen Duren to get some minutes off the bench. “It’s tough,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “What’s going to have to manifest itself is – it’s not natural right now – for Isaiah to kind of slide to the four just to open some spots for everybody.”
  • While most of the attention regarding the Pistons is focused on their young backcourt of Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, third-year forward Saddiq Bey has served notice that he could be an offensive force this season, according to James Edwards III of The Athletic. “He’s putting the ball on the floor a lot better, finding guys a lot better,” reserve guard Cory Joseph said. “We know how he can score and the attention he’s going to get. He’s making the game better for himself and everyone around him right now. He’s playing really well.”