Two years ago at the trade deadline, the expected Brook Lopez rumors swirled. The Nets dealt Kevin Garnett to Minnesota and were on the verge of shipping Lopez to Oklahoma City. Lopez was so sure this time would be the time, he called a buddy to go to his room and pack a bag.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Lopez recalled Wednesday. “We were in L.A. and I didn’t know if I should go down to the bus for practice or what. I didn’t pack anything and I was talking to [former trainer] Timmy [Walsh] and said, ‘Do I get taped?’ I had no idea what to do.
“That one was right down to the wire. But through it all, I’m still here.”
And Lopez has gone from trade bait to one of the Nets’ most important offensive weapons — as a 3-point shooter. Call him “Steph,” as in Curry. Just your typical 7-foot 3-point marksman.
Lopez went 352 games in his NBA career before he made a 3-pointer. Entering this season, he was 3-for-31 lifetime. This season, he’s 108-for-307 (.352). He has made 11 3s in his last three games, including six Sunday against the Knicks, whom the Nets face Thursday at the Garden.
Lopez credits his success to coach Kenny Atkinson. And big brothers.
“It’s just something I’ve always been confident in and been able to do. It’s a matter of this year the coaching staff and Kenny reiterating that they have the confidence in me to shoot the 3 in games and if I’m open to take it,” Lopez said. “Kenny came to me and told me, ‘This is part of our offense, this is what we want to do.’
“I don’t want to make it more than it is. Growing up, I always shot outside. I grew up with older brothers who were always bigger than me, so I had to do that. So it’s always been comfortable for me.”
Lopez has led a resurgence in the 3-pointer for the Nets, who have shot 79-for-187 (.422) from 3-point range in their past six games. They hit 19 against the Knicks, including a team-record 14 in the first half. Since the All-Star break, they have gone 115-for-302 (.381); before the break, they were 66-for-1812 (.340).
Atkinson credits the return of Jeremy Lin and his ability to draw in defenses on penetration for the team-wide success. For Lopez’s success, the coach credits Lopez.
“Brook’s got a beautiful shot,” Atkinson said. “It’s effortless. He’s a highly skilled player, he’s always been a good mid-range shooter. I compare it to [Al] Horford. These guys as big and strong as they are, why can’t they step out 3 more feet?”
Lin and Lopez expressed mutual admiration Wednesday.
“He’s taken us to a whole other level. Or even two levels. I don’t know if that’s even the expression,” Lopez said of Lin.
“The thing about Brook is he’s so capable in so many different ways. That’s really been my biggest, top of the list in terms of learning to play with my teammates,” Lin said. “How do I get him involved where there’s a nice balance of 3-pointers and to the rim and on the block and soft rolls where you hit him in the pocket and he can make plays around the free-throw line? He’s so versatile.”
And still a Net.
The Nets filled their 15th roster spot by signing 6-5 free-agent combo guard Archie Goodwin, a first-round pick of the Thunder in 2013, to a 10-day contract.
Goodwin played three seasons with the Suns and this season, along with the D-League, three games with the Pelicans. Atkinson said he meets the Nets’ criteria: “Young. Talented. Athletic.” … Sean Kilpatrick was nursing a sore hamstring suffered Tuesday.