The Robin Lopez era in Phoenix lasted four seasons, and had its ups and downs. But ultimately, when Lopez was a restricted free agent last summer, the Suns couldn’t come to an agreement to retain his services, so they worked out a sign-and-trade that sent Lopez to New Orleans.
We’re only 11 games in, but the move has already been a positive one for Lopez, who is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and minutes as a starter — something he wasn’t in any of his 64 games in Phoenix last season.
The Suns had every intention of retaining Lopez, and planned to match any reasonable offer that was made for him in restricted free agency. But once they made their offer, and Lopez wasn’t immediately sold, they agreed to part ways.
Lopez, who was booed during player introductions, agreed to a three-year, $15.3million contract to become New Orleans’ starting center in the sign-and-trade deal, but the final two years are team options — a curious concession by Lopez, but he is happy.
“Who doesn’t want to start, first of all?” said Lopez, who started 94 games for the Suns, including some after Marcin Gortat’s arrival. “It wasn’t so much starting, but maybe more minutes and just a fresh opportunity.
“I think it was something definitely that was needed for both myself and the Suns as well.”
“They definitely made a fair offer. I just think it was time for a change.”
The opinion of the Phoenix front office may have been consistent where Lopez was concerned, but the conclusion of exactly how much he could impact the game seemed to fluctuate wildly with the coaching staff during Lopez’s years there. It affected how he was used, and affected his playing time, as well.
Lopez would have been a serviceable backup in Phoenix, but he’s getting to show more of what he can do so far in New Orleans. And, he’ll likely get more of a chance to develop being featured in a bigger role. But putting up better numbers while playing starter’s minutes on a bad team is easier to do, so we’ll need a larger sample size before declaring Lopez’s move a complete success.