Lopez wants to re-sign with Bulls, but free-agent market is a mystery
Last summer, Brook Lopez hit free-agency and landed in Milwaukee on a one-year deal worth a relatively paltry $3.4 million.
Twin brother Robin will test the open market this year. And even though he's been on a scoring binge lately with the Bulls, it's tough to judge what kind of demand there will be. Seven-foot centers have become less common as NBA teams shift to smaller lineups and more mobile players.
His last contract was $55 million over four years. Asked Monday to ponder his value, Lopez at first deferred, then made a sales pitch.
"There's always going to be a market for -- I guess here I go patting myself on the back -- but you know, smart, intelligent, tall big guys," he said. "If you know your way around the basketball court, if you know what you're supposed to be doing out there to help yourself and help out other guys, height's something that they obviously say you can't teach. That's something that's tough to go against."
After the Bulls held their final practice of the season at the United Center, Lopez made it clear he's willing to stay on board with the rebuilding project.
"I would love to be with these guys," he said. "I love the guys I'm playing with right now. I love them."
Of course, being a free agent means being free to select your next team. There was talk Golden State would have been interested if the Bulls bought out Lopez' contract after the trade deadline. That never happened and the Warriors may have very little money to spend in the summer, since they'll be trying to re-sign both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.
"Every NBA player wants to succeed. Everybody here is competitive," Lopez said. "We're still bummed out today we didn't make the playoffs. We've been bummed out for however many amount of days. So everybody wants to be in a successful situation and I'm no different. I see no reason that the Bulls can't be in the playoffs next year."
That's a sentiment most of the Bulls have expressed. There is some potential for improvement if the Bulls can manage to avoid injuries for a change, and a .500 record is usually good enough to make the playoffs in the East.
The Bulls are planning on rookie Wendell Carter Jr. to be their starting center long-term. They'll still need veterans and size on the roster, so it makes plenty of sense to bring back Lopez. The question is how much money would they be willing to spend on a likely backup?
"I care for Robin a lot," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. "I think he's a winning player and he's been terrific. He's been terrific in helping the young guys, he's had my back the whole time I've had the job, and he's a pro's pro. What I want is what's best for him, and I think he's going to have a market."
Lopez, 31, set a career-high for points last season at 11.8. This year, his scoring average is 9.4, but since Feb. 6, he's averaged 15.0 points per game while shooting 61 percent from the field. He's starting to master the spin move in the post, and he's a good scoring option for any team with the 3-point shooters to spread the court.
This sounds like an easy decision from both sides for the Bulls to re-sign Lopez, but a lot will depend on how many phone calls he gets from other teams on July 1.
"I love Chicago. Lots of great restaurants, lots of dog parks for Muppet (his dog). I've got two baseball stadiums to choose from," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind if we come in, we work, I don't see any reason why we couldn't make the playoffs, why we wouldn't make the playoffs."
Bulls game dayBulls vs. New York Knicks, 7 p.m. Tuesday at the United Center
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: The Knicks (16-64) have clinched the NBA's worst record, but have won two of their last four games, beating the Bulls last week at Madison Square Garden and Washington at home on Sunday. ... SF Mario Hezonja, a former top-10 pick of Orlando, has been on a roll lately, averaging 25.0 points in the last three games. New York's top scorer, PG Emmanuel Mudiay, is out with a shoulder injury. PF Luke Kornet scored 24 points when the Knicks beat the Bulls. ... New York has dropped two in a row at the UC.
Next: Philadelphia 76ers, 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center
-- Mike McGraw