Q&A: Brook Lopez

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Sunday, November 09, 2014 with No comments
Courtesy of Steve Serby 

Q: What kind of team does Brooklyn deserve?
A: I think they deserve a team that reflects what you think when you think Brooklyn. Or maybe not, since it’s gotten more developed, but when you think back to Brooklyn and Dem Bums, the Brooklyn Dodgers — the grit, the toughness, the fortitude — and I think we like [to display] those traits on the floor when we play. We’re in it together, and Coach Lionel [Hollins] has definitely made it clear that that’s the way he wants it to be on the floor.
Q: What’s the criticism of you that bothers you the most?
A: I don’t pay attention to a lot of that. I’d say if there was anything, it would be more that I pay more attention or care more about off-court stuff, my other interests that somehow are taken in a negative way, and that I don’t care about the game as much as I should, ’cause I love the game, I’ve played it my entire life. It’s what I do, it’s my job, it’s what I live for, and I love being out on the floor.
Q: How would you describe your on-court mentality?
A: I try to stay pretty level-headed. If there’s a call or something like that, I might react and get emotional, but I try to stay pretty even keel, even when we’re doing well or we’re down. So it’s the same always.
Q: The reason I asked you about the criticism is I’ve read the word “soft” used in connection with you.
A: I don’t think I’m soft. I don’t think my teammates think I’m soft. I don’t know where that comes from, but … whatever.
Q: But you’ve read that, or heard that, right?
A: I’ve heard that, absolutely. But it doesn’t worry me. I’m out there playing, I know who I am.
Q: Do you have a chip on your shoulder, or you have something to prove?
A: I think we feel we definitely do as a team. I didn’t like missing last season. It frustrated me. I love playing, I love basketball, and so I’m happy to be back out on the floor. I’m blessed to be able to be out there. … [It] made me realize how much I love the game. I want to get back to the way I was.
Q: Do you think you can become a dominant player?
A: No question.
Q: What superhero would you see yourself as?
A: (Chuckle). There’s a lot of good superheroes out there to pick. Batman’s always been my favorite. Batman thinks of everything. Batman’s always prepared.
Q: How many comic books are there in your comic book room back in your Fresno, Calif., home?
A: I haven’t counted. … I’ve collected for as long as I can remember.
Q: Give me Brook Lopez’s starting five comic book heroes.
A: Batman, ’cause he cheats. Batman always wins. He may not win the cleanest way, it may be dirty, but he wins. You got the Flash in there, obviously. … Superman, no question. … I’d go with the Martian Manhunter … and the Plastic Man.
Q: Sixth Man off the bench?
A: (Pause) Nightcrawler. His teleportation would be very effective.
Q: Who would the coach be?
A: Why not go with … Professor X?
Q: That would be a very competitive team in the NBA, wouldn’t it?
A: We might give ’em a run, but I don’t think anyone else would.
Q: Give me a scouting report on the dominating, elite Brook Lopez.
A: With the help of Lionel this year, I’ve tried to focus myself more on being a pillar on the defensive end, someone my teammates can rely on. … I always try to be talking when I’m in the paint, letting them know I’m there to back ’em up, [Friday] night, letting whoever was guarding [Carmelo Anthony know] that I was there for him, I’m there to help, and I always got my guy’s back.
Q: What is Coach Hollins’ motivational style?
A: (Laugh) He really gets into you. He lets you know when you’re doing something wrong, and he’s honest, so you have to respect him for that. And he gets guys going. He’s not pulling any punches. That’s good.
Q: How do you feel physically?
A: I feel great. I’m so happy to be back out on the floor. My conditioning’s been coming back every game, and Lionel’s just been throwing me out there.
Q: What drives you?
A: I want our team to win. It sounds simple. Obviously, everyone wants their team to win, but it’s who wants it most, and I think we have a number of guys who feel the same way I do. We want to build something here. Our guys aren’t gonna cut corners, we want to be the best, I want to be the best.
Q: Does it drive you guys to be the best team in New York?
A: We want to be the best team in the league.
Q: Do you think you can take the town from the Knicks?
A: Like I said, if we’re the best team in the league, that’s much better than just out of New York.
Q: What was the most impactful part of your trip two summers ago to Africa?
A: I think it was Tanzania, we were with the Starkey Foundation, and we were fitting some of the locals with hearing aids. Some of ’em are kids from like 4 years old to adult tribe members, they were like 80-something years old, who have hearing problems. And just going through the process, fitting ’em with the hearing aid and then giving them a plastic tubing around their ear to hold it in place. When we’d start changing the levels, we’d make this noise … in their ear to see if they’d hear. And if they didn’t, you could turn it up a little more, and then continue the test. And when you finally, saw their like eyes go big, and they realize they’re finally hearing something for the first time. It was an amazing moment, it’s really an indescribable moment. Just seeing ’em hear for the first time, react to that, and then 15 minutes later when they’re done that, the kids especially, running around just shouting nonsense to hear themselves speak. … It was amazing. And then you have a mom who turns around and thanks you ’cause she can finally hear her child say, “I love you,” and stuff like that. It was unreal.
Q: Who are athletes in other sports you admire?
A: I was always a big Ken Griffey Jr. fan growing up. My brother went to University of Washington for his freshman year and part of his sophomore year when I was like in second grade. It was just when the Mariners were at their peak — they had [Ken] Griffey, Randy Johnson, young [Alex Rodriguez], Joey Cora, the Martinezes [Tino and Edgar], Jay Buhner, [Roberto] Alomar, [Chris] Bosio, all those guys, yeah.
Q: You went to games?
A: I did, yeah. I played Little League up there, so they always had Little League days where you get to walk on the field, and it’s a great memory of my childhood.
Q: Were you a pitcher?
A: I was actually center field.
Q: Any good?
A: I was more mobile then, so I’d like to think so.
Q: Did you think about a major league baseball career at all?
A: No, no, no. I’m a big baseball fan still to this day, but when I was in, I think it was fifth grade, we were in Fresno, Calif., at this point, I was playing Little League there, we were actually on the Mariners by coincidence. Our team was looking for a pitcher, and so everyone took a few lobs the first day of practice, we were on the mound throwing, and I was throwing hard and straight, so I was confident. And our manager gave me the starting pitcher nod for opening day. But three batters in, I walked two guys, and then I hit one of my best friends from elementary school. I just vividly remember hitting him in his shoulder, and him walking down the first base line holding his arm crying, and I felt so bad, I was like, “I can’t do this,” and then Coach pulled me.
Q: That was the end of your baseball career?
A: Pretty unceremonious.
Q: What do you remember about the young A-Rod?
A: Griffey was already established at that point and [Rodriguez] was coming up at shortstop. … It was pretty entertaining to see, it was fun to watch him play.
Q: So Griffey was your boyhood idol?
A: Yeah, outside of basketball definitely. I was also a huge Tim Duncan, Matt Johnson fan, and actually a [Kevin Garnett] fan.
Q: Did you tell KG that when he joined the team?
A: I don’t know if I’ve ever actually told him. I told him once I was a big Timberwolves fan, I loved watching him play. He said it made him feel old, so I’m not trying to do that.
Q: What have you learned about KG as a teammate that you didn’t know?
A: You see him as a player and you play against him, he’s so aggressive. He goes as hard as he can the entire game, and you get this idea of him around the league. Then, when you’re in the locker room with him and you’re playing with him, he’s one of those guys you absolutely want to have him on your team rather than playing against him.
Q: Because?
A: He’s always got a player’s back, he’s always talking to you, finding ways to make you better, picking you up when you’re down. When you’re in the practice facility or in the gym, and you really don’t feel like working, you see that guy still going 20 years in at whatever age, 39, 40 he’s at right now — in the weight room, getting reps in, on the court, sweating, getting shots up, running … You can’t help but work yourself.
Q: Has he given you any trash talk tips?
A: (Laugh) He told me that he’d handle all that. I told him I had his back if it [gets] serious though.
Q: You don’t do that much, right?
A: No, no. I’m a pretty quiet player when I’m out there.
Q: Describe your mother, Deborah.
A: It’s really hard to put into words. She’s just done so much for us over the years, how much she’s sacrificed. … She raised four big boys on a single mom’s public school teaching salary. She’d drive us all around L.A. and then Fresno getting us to practices, dropping [twin brother] Robin and I off to practice, going to pick [brother] Chris up from somewhere else, setting [brother] Alex up. Whatever we wanted or needed from her, she’d go out of her way to get. She let us try everything out, we weren’t strictly basketball players. He got us interested in art, she took us to the Getty Museum out in L.A. She read to us all the time, got us interested in other stuff that is a little more outside the box.
Q: Did you miss having a relationship with your father?
A: I was very young when my parents got divorced, so having just a mom was all I knew. To me, that’s the prototypical, traditional family (chuckle). It worked out perfectly, she did so much for us. We didn’t need anything else.
Q: Your father has not tried to get a hold of you at all?
A: No, not from my knowledge.
Q: Describe your grandmother.
A: The first thing we’d do when we got to her house, we’d go into her little library, her book room … from children’s books up to novels, we’d go and pull ’em down, and just go to town reading all of them (chuckle).
Q: You were in “West Side Story” and “Footloose” in high school.
A: When I ate lunch with my friend, we sat right outside the drama room.
Q: How much fun was it?
A: I’m an active guy off the court, I love messing around and having fun with my friends.
Q: Favorite NYC things?
A: I love going to see the shows on Broadway. My friend and I have a list, and we’re working our way through all of them. … I finally saw “Book of Mormon.” That was fantastic.
Q: Are you recognized?
A: I’m a tall guy, so if they know who I am or not (chuckle), they’re gonna ask if I’m a basketball player.
Q: You text Robin every day?
A: Yeah, yeah, we never talk on the phone but we text all the time, Facebook chat all the time.
Q: In 25 words or less, personality-wise, what’s the difference between you and Robin?
A: Robin’s an idiot.
Q: You obviously want him to read this.
A: Yeah, yeah. … Robin’s a complete moron.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Walt Disney, Jules Verne, Harrison Ford.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Return of the Jedi.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Harrison Ford.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Judy Garland, Katherine Hepburn; Barbara Stanwyck.
Q: Favorite entertainer?
A: Michael Jackson.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Mom’s spaghetti — the way the cheese melts on top of the spaghetti sauce, it all comes together. It’s fantastic, it’s definitely comfort food. I definitely feel like I’m home when I have it.