The other Lopez is growing up

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Robin Lopez was able to play alongside his brother, Brook, at Stanford before both were drafted into the NBA in 2008. But while Brook’s production has skyrocketed him to a near-elite class of NBA centers (albeit while playing for the worst team in the league) during his short NBA career, Robin was buried behind Shaquille O’Neal during his rookie campaign and faced some serious struggles during the first half of this season. It looked for a moment like Lopez may have been more Taylor Griffin than Marc Gasol, doomed to live in his brother’s shadow throughout the duration of their respective careers.

But Robin’s mid-season renaissance has him playing with more confidence than ever, and while his contributions don’t quite match Brook’s, he’s making meaningful plays for a team that matters. Robin Lopez is becoming a difference-maker in the middle for the Phoenix Suns. From Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic:

Since being inserted into the starting lineup Jan. 18, the Suns are 16-8, and 14-4 in their past 18 games. Since the All-Star break, the Suns have held five of 12 opponents to fewer than 100 points. During that stretch, Lopez poured in 30 points against the Clippers and promptly messaged his brother, Brook, who plays for the Nets. “Until I score 33, he still has the family record for most points in a NBA game,” Lopez said.

With Lopez on the bench, the Suns were outrebounded in 25 of their first 41 games. Since the change, they have won or tied the rebounding battle in 19 of 24 games. Now, a soft-serve franchise suddenly is besting its opponents by an average of 4.4 rebounds per game. But this isn’t about numbers. Simply put, Lopez has changed the personality of this basketball team.

That’s a tall claim about a guy who could barely crack the Suns’ rotation a year ago. But Robin Lopez is coming into his own, and he’s using defense and rebounding to significantly alter the complexion of the Phoenix Suns. There was a serious need for Lopez’s particular skill set, and he’s merely stepped in to do what he’s always done best.

If anything, stories like Robin’s only preach to the patience that NBA prospects deserve. Phenomenal talents like LeBron James, Derrick Rose, and Tyreke Evans can step into the league and be dominant players from day one. But other draftees are simply better suited as bit players during their early careers.

Maybe they’ll someday develop into a star or maybe they won’t, but during a prospect’s crucial formative stages, confidence is key, and that confidence comes from within, from their teammates, from the coaching staff, and from the fans. The weight of expectation can be enough to drag down anyone’s career, and while Robin Lopez wasn’t faced with an unbearable burden, he may have been unfairly counted out despite the fact that his NBA career is still in its infancy.

Watch Jonathan Simmons’ chasedown block on Stephen Curry

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Jonathan Simmons did his best LeBron James impression on opening night.

While the Spurs were running the Warriors out of Oracle Arena — a 129-100 Spurs win — Simmons had a fantastic chasedown block on Stephen Curry. It was one of the plays of the game (most of the rest came from Kawhi Leonard).

Simmons had 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting off the bench for the Spurs in the win, which included a poster dunk on JaVale McGee late. Just to put some icing on the win.

Iman Shumpert in concussion protocol after collision with Porzingis

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Late in the third quarter of Cleveland’s blowout opening night win over New York, the Cavalier’s Iman Shumpert lowered his head and tried to drive the lane, where he collided with Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis. It looked like Shumpert’s head hit Porzingis’ hip and elbow.

Shumpert instantly went to the ground, then needed help to come off the court. He was diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms, the team announced. Apparently, Porzingis is a rock.

That puts Shumpert in the league’s concussion protocol, and he’s going to miss time, notes Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

A source questioned whether Shumpert would be available for either of the Cavs’ next two games, Friday in Toronto and Saturday against Orlando at The Q. To play, Shumpert would need to be symptom free, pass a series of tests, and show no symptoms after each test.

There is no set timeline with a concussion. In the short term, this will mean more DeAndre Liggins on the court until Shumpert returns.

The Cavs are already without rookie backup point guard Kay Felder, who suffered a concussion during practice last Friday when he ran into Chris Andersen.

What championship hangover? Cavaliers rout Knicks on ring night in Cleveland.

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers finishes off a fast break with a dunk in the third quarter as Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks watches on October 25, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland defeated New York 117-88. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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There’s a good reason LeBron James has been to six straight NBA Finals. It’s not all about his incredible physical gifts. It’s not about the quality of his teammates.

It’s about will.

On a night when a lot of teams play like their hungover — the night they get their championship rings and a banner is raised to the rafters — LeBron played harder than anyone and pulled his team along.

LeBron had a triple-double — 19 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds — and led the Cavaliers to an easy win over the Knicks, 117-86. Kyrie Irving had 29 points — 19 in the third — and Kevin Love added 23 in the win.

But mostly it was the Cavaliers’ offense getting whatever shot it wanted and the Knicks watching dunks from up close.

Over the course of this season, these Knicks will evolve into something better than they showed opening night. No Derrick Rose (trial) and no Joakim Noah (injury) meant the Knicks starting five didn’t have a lot of cohesion and chemistry from the start.

After a sluggish first five minutes by both teams — they were a combined 6-of-22 shooting to open the game — the Cavaliers slowly started to create a little space behind 10 first quarter points from Love. That lead really started to grow as the Knicks bench came in and went 0-of-6 shooting to end the quarter, with Brandon Jennings making questionable decisions. Tack on seven Knick turnovers and the first and they were down 10 after 12 minutes.

The Cavs were in control through much of the second quarter until the Knicks went on a 10-0 run to make it a game again. It was Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony driving the team — they shot a combined 12-of-20 in the first half, the rest of the Knicks were 5-of-23. It was 48-45 Cavaliers at the break.

In the third quarter the Cavaliers starters cranked it up behind Kyrie Irving and tighter defense — the third quarter saw Kyrie Irving with 19 points and the entire Knicks team with 19. It was 82-64 Cavs after three and the celebration was on.

Kristaps Porzingis showed some moments but his 16 points came on 5-of-13 shooting. Anthony had 19 points on 18 shots. Rose had 17 points but four turnovers and one assist. Brandon Jennings came off the bench to shoot 1-of-7. It was not their best night.

For the Cavs, it was one to remember — the first banner in 52 years went up.

Did we mention LeBron James was dunking all over Knicks? Watch for yourself.


LeBron James isn’t the only story out of the NBA season opener — Kyrie Irving had 29 points, Kevin Love had 23, Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose were shotmaking.

But mostly, LeBron James was dunking. And racking up a triple-double (19 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds). But mostly just dunking. Like you see above. Or there is this alley-oop.

Or, there was this putback throwdown.

And we can throw in a block on Courtney Lee just for fun.