For most of the time since Brook Lopez and his $22.6 million expiring contract were acquired by the Los Angeles Lakers last summer, the seven-footer was seen as a rental, a mercenary brought in to play out the season and create cap space for 2018 NBA free agents.
But after a season in which Lopez averaged 13 points while spacing the floor in the smallest role of his career, he said he would be willing to re-sign if it meant playing alongside marquee players the franchise is said to be targeting, and therefore competing for a championship.
“Yeah, I think so, obviously. If that were the situation and it looked like the team was an absolute contender than that’s hard to pass up,” Lopez said during his exit interview.
Lopez might not have had the best statistical season of his career, but some of his impact didn’t show up traditional sats. Lopez’s length was a big part of why the team was able to make massive strides forward defensively, and his shooting gave the Lakers the ability to have some semblance of room to operate inside.
He acknowledged the diminished role wasn’t easy to accept, at least at first, calling the season the “most challenging” of his career so far.
“Throwing into a new situation, there were just a lot of variables. This was a team trying to find its identity. We had a lot of new players and it took some time to gel,” Lopez added.
But now that the Lakers have gelled, Lopez would like to come back, even if he knows he won’t be the front office’s top priority over the summer. “There’s a lot of different variables, but that being said, I love what’s going on here,” Lopez said.
“There’s a great foundation, great young guys in place, and there’s a lot to be said for continuity as well. When we were healthy, we could compete with anyone on any given night. I think this is a great place to be going forward. Not just for myself but any free agent looking to sign somewhere.”
Which free agents listen to Lopez’s endorsement will determine whether he’s back or not, and at what price tag he signs for. The Lakers reportedly will look to Lopez as an option to fill out their roster on a one-year contract in the event they fail to sign max-level free agents.