After making just one three-pointer in his first seven NBA seasons, Brook Lopez transformed into a perimeter weapon who provides crucial spacing for the Milwaukee Bucks. Lopez made 187 threes last year, ranking first among centers and 17th among all players (ahead of shooters like Trae Young and Joe Harris among others). With his 2.3 threes and 2.2 blocks per game, he’s morphed into the perfect center for today’s NBA (which is why Milwaukee gave him a four-year, $52 million deal this offseason).
HoopsHype caught up with Lopez at the grand opening of the NBA Experience in Orlando’s Disney Springs to discuss his offseason training, love of Disney, expectations for the season, thoughts on Milwaukee’s additions (including his twin, Robin Lopez) and more.
The Bucks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, where you lost to Toronto Raptors in six games. How beneficial was that deep playoff run and how do you think that experience will help the team this season?
Brook Lopez: It was great. It was great for all of us, honestly. It was our first year with Coach [Mike] Budenholzer and it was my first year there too. To do what we did in that initial year was fantastic. We were all disappointed, obviously, that we weren’t able to go all the way. We really felt we could’ve. But I think we learned a lot from that experience. We’re taking it all in and now we’re ready to go this year.
Last year, you told HoopsHype that you and your teammates were “very confident” you could win the East. Nobody was projecting you guys to contend so people were shocked, but I loved the confidence. Then, sure enough, you won 60 games and came close to winning the East. Now, after seeing what this team is capable of, how confident are you entering this season?
BL: Oh, we have the same confidence. It’s not cockiness or brashness or anything like that. It’s just a belief in each other, a belief in us and a belief in our system. We’re putting forth the work each and every day, so we have that confidence that we can compete with anyone.
As you mentioned, this will be Coach Budenholzer’s second year in Milwaukee. How important is that continuity and how much more comfortable is the team in that second year with a head coach?
BL: It’s huge. You obviously don’t have to learn everything on the fly and there’s that foundation that’s already there. [Continuity] helps with a lot of those intangibles – the relationships between the players, relationships between the coaches – and it helped build those all-time great teams.
What was your reaction to this offseason, with so many stars changing teams left and right?
BL: Man, it was so entertaining – first and foremost. Just as a fan of the game – waiting for all of those Woj Bombs and news updates – it really was exciting! As a player, it’s exciting too. I mean, everyone has said it, but I think the level of parity is really exciting because there are a number of teams that, I think, are contenders now. It’s just great for basketball because it’s going to be such a competitive league this year.
What did you make of Milwaukee’s offseason and the moves they made?
BL: I thought we made all of the right moves… pretty much. Except for signing Robin. I don’t know about that one. (Laughs) We’ll see how that goes…
In all seriousness, that has to be so cool! How excited are you to play with your brother again?
BL: It’s going to be fun! I know my mom is going to be all about it. She was born in Milwaukee and grew up there for a few years. Now, she’s going to be an official Milwaukee resident again. She’ll be there all season long, watching our games.
After winning 60 games and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals and producing the league MVP, you guys aren’t going to sneak up on anyone. You guys will enter this season with a target on your back, unlike last year. How do you prepare for that?
BL: We’re just going to come with the same mentality. We want to be the best team we can be. We want to be the best team in the league. We’re just going to take it game by game. Fortunately, all of the guys on our team have the right mindset. Nobody is in this for the wrong reasons.
Earlier this offseason, Giannis Antetokounmpo said that he believes he’s only reached 60 percent of his potential. What do you make of that and what you’ve seen from him in terms of his development?
BL: I mean, it’s crazy that with the level he’s at now, he still has another level or two to go in his game. He could become a way better player than he is now, which has got to be a scary thought for the entire league.
Speaking of development, I love the way that you’ve transformed your game, going from never shooting three-pointers to becoming an excellent shooter. A lot of players want to add a three-point shot to their repertoire or extend their range, but they struggle to actually do it. How were you able to add that to your game?
BL: It was just a matter of putting the work in. Growing up, I’ve always had a pretty good touch and a pretty good feel for my shot. It was just a matter of getting in the gym and getting reps in day after day, shot by shot. I’m lucky that I’ve had great coaches and training staffs along the way that have given me confidence and given me that green light to shoot regardless of whether I make or miss.
We’re at the brand-new NBA Experience at Disney Springs in Orlando. What do you think of the attraction and how much would 10-year-old Brook have loved this?
BL: Oh man, it’s unbelievable. It’s a really great set up and the fact that it’s so interactive is a huge selling point. Being able to dunk a basketball regardless of your height, being able to hold the Larry O’Brien trophy and MVP trophy, being able to check out the inside of a player’s locker, being able to do the Combine testing… it’s all stuff that you dream of as a kid. I remember the first time I was in an NBA locker room – looking at my jersey, touching it, taking pictures of it. You can do that same stuff here! This is the perfect intersection for me, the NBA and Disney, because it’s two of my all-time passions together! I’m happy and blessed to be part of this event.
You’ve always loved Disney. When did that start and what you drew you in?
BL: I grew up in Los Angeles and my family would all go to Disneyland together so those are some of my earliest and most precious memories, just hanging out in the parks with my twin brother (Robin), my older brothers and my mom. I kind of grew up on this stuff! I was always going to the theme parks, watching the movies and all of that stuff. It’s a really big part of me.
I heard you live in the Disney-designed “resort community” that’s attached to Disney World? That sounds so cool! What is that like?
BL: Yeah, I live in Golden Oak; it’s great! My commute to this NBA Experience event was less than five minutes! I’m just down the street. When you live in the community, you get an annual premier pass that covers [the parks] in L.A. and Orlando. And you’re around a bunch of other Disney fans. It’s funny, you’ll be in, like, Epcot and you run into your neighbors while you’re walking around! I’m always like, “Hey, I’m your neighbor! I live right down the street from you!” It’s fun.
What are your top-three favorite Disney movies of all-time?
BL: My three favorite Disney movies? Hmm. I’d say… First, “101 Dalmatians.” Second, “Sleeping Beauty.” Then, hmm. Third would probably be “The Jungle Book.” I’m in a “Jungle Book” mood right now, so I’ll go with “Jungle Book” at three. And my favorite of all [the live-action remakes] is probably “The Jungle Book.” I thought Jon Favreau did a great job with “The Jungle Book,” telling his version of the story.
You’re a well-rounded guy with a lot of different interests. Let’s hope your playing days aren’t over anytime soon, but do you have any idea what you want to do after your NBA career ends?
BL: I would love to do something with Disney, obviously. I don’t know if it would be Imagineering or in the parks. Something creative with Disney would be a dream job for me.