Everybody knows the knock on Brook Lopez is that he doesn’t play defense well and can’t rebound like a center typically needs to. That’s where new Net Reggie Evans comes in. Evans has been providing the Nets with defense off the bench, but perhaps his more important role has been challenging Lopez defensively during practice.
“He’s going after me, beating me up, being tough,” Lopez told Jeff Zillgitt of the USA Today. “He gets every rebound. I have to make a concerted effort to box him out and be tough with him. I can’t be soft. I have to go at it every day in practice.
“In retrospect, I should have seen it coming. He’s definitely what I needed. It gets heated in practice, but after practice, it’s like, ‘That’s what I need.’ I can’t thank the guy enough. He makes the game so much easier.”
Evans said he won’t be satisfied until Lopez is an All-Star.
“I’ve been telling Lopez I can’t settle for nothing less but the All-Star game for him this season,” Evans said. “I make practice tougher on him so the game is easier. I don’t cut no slack with him. I’m holding him. I’m banging with him. I’m fronting him. I’m mixing it up. I make him run. I make practices like game situations.”
Compared to last season, Lopez has improved his defensive game. The problem is that the change has been small. For his career, Lopez averaged 7.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes. This year he’s averaging 8.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per 36. A modest improvement, but an improvement. This isn’t going to happen overnight after all.
The hope is that this is for real and not just a feel good story with feel good quotes as the Nets optimistically get this season underway. He’s going to have to back this up and keep those stats up and probably get them a bit better even. At this point, we can only hope.