Despite Lakers loss, Brook Lopez buoyed by Bucks' rally around Giannis after NBA All-Star Weekend: "Not a matter of if, but when" (Exclusive)

Brook Lopez hints at Giannis-Dame superduo gaining chemistry amid Milwaukee Bucks
Brook Lopez hints at Giannis-Dame superduo gaining chemistry amid Milwaukee Bucks' recent surge

The night ended with the Milwaukee Bucks experiencing more turbulence.

First, the Bucks’ defense faltered as Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell sliced through the lane for a go-ahead floater. Then, Milwaukee’s late-game offense withered as Bucks guard Damian Lillard hoisted a 3-pointer that Lakers forward Spencer Dinwiddie blocked just as time expired.

The Bucks (41-23) have since slid to third place in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Cleveland Cavaliers by a small margin for second place (1/2 a game) and the Boston Celtics by a wide margin for first place (8.5 games).

As he sat by his locker afterwards, Bucks center Brook Lopez still maintained a healthy big-picture outlook on the team’s trajectory. The reasons?

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Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lillard have grown as one of the NBA’s best duos. The Bucks have shown substantial improvement defensively since the All-Star break. And Milwaukee appears revitalized under veteran coach Doc Rivers, who replaced first-year head coach Adrian Griffin just over a month ago.

“He’s changed us a lot,” Lopez told Sportskeeda. “He’s given us a great energy and a great confidence. Things have been simplified. We have a lot of people on the same page right now.”

Brook Lopez interview

Lopez spoke with Sportskeeda about other topics surrounding the Bucks’ 2023-24 season.

Editor’s note: The following one-on-one interview has been edited and condensed.

What’s your big-picture assessment on how everyone handled the ups and downs of the season and the coaching changes?

Brook Lopez:

“They’ve been good for us. They’ve been learning experiences. They helped us grow. We’ve done a great job with sticking together and coming together through all of this. I think it’s all helped strengthen us, honestly.”

In what ways?

Brook Lopez:

As players, we’ve all gone through this together. We’ve all had our different experiences. But as a team, we’ve had similar ones. I think by having those experiences and by sharing them with each other, I think that has helped us realize that we’re all in this for the same things. We’re all in this to win. It’s helped us come together and form a strong bond.”

What enabled you all to have resiliency?

Brook Lopez:

“On this team, we have a lot of guys that have the same mind and are like-minded. We’re not here for the wrong reasons. Naturally, we have a number of guys that go out there and let their game do the talking. We all have the same overall goal with winning. That’s No. 1. That’s what we what to be known for. That’s what we want to achieve. That’s what we want to make happen. When we’re out there, we’re willing to make sacrifices for each other. That comes from growing together and coming together and thinking about other people and learning where they’re from and who they are. That helps make the sacrifices easier.”

What has Doc’s impact been on the group so far?

Brook Lopez:

“It has been incredibly noticeable. He’s changed us a lot. He’s given us a great energy and a great confidence. Things have been simplified. We have a lot of people on the same page right now.”

How have you seen the two-man game with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard grow and evolve?

Brook Lopez:

“They’re both obviously elite, elite players. They’re smart and unselfish. They have the same end goal. It has been growing at a great rate. The crazy thing is they still have so much room to improve.”

In what respects?

Brook Lopez:

“In a lot of respects. They’re playing great right now. But as a team, we can be so much better. They can be so much better. I can be so much better. That’s what is scary. We can be even greater.”

What does that look like to you?

Brook Lopez:

“I don’t know. But I don’t know how many people will like what it looks like. We’ll like it very much, though.”

What do you think helped spur their chemistry to grow overall?

Brook Lopez:

“There’s been a number of things throughout. I can’t think of any right now on the spot. But they have grown already, and there’s going to be a few more. It’s going to be a great thing.”

What has fueled the team’s improved defense?

Brook Lopez:

“We want to keep improving in all of the areas that we can. But we’ve been getting leaps and bounds better. It’s just been communication and everyone jelling together and getting to know one another. It’s about us growing stronger together as a unit.”

Doc said about the need for you and Giannis to stay in the paint and that everyone else to stay out on the perimeter to help with point of attack [defense]. What’s the key to be able to have consistently?

Brook Lopez:

“It’s just trust. It’s trust. It changes your defensive mentality when you know you have someone behind you that is going to have your back. You’re not getting blown by beat, but you’re into your guy and you’re making it difficult for him. If he happens to get by you, someone is going to be there to back you up. It’s just about getting that trust. It’s hard to build. It can be a little uncomfortable to be up there and vulnerable like that. But you have to have that trust.”

You’re a versatile big that can play in the post and shoot the 3. How do you determine when to lean on which part of your game?

Brook Lopez:

“You have to be able to read the game and read where our guys are. You have to get a feel for one another and get a feel for which teammates do what and what they need, spacing-wise. Then you have to have the confidence when it comes your time to take your shot and shoot it. I had head coaches that allowed me to work on all parts of my game. They didn’t just sit me in the post and tell me to be a big. They showed me how to be a basketball player.”

Doc said that he’s told you when you’re posting up, to post up and show yourself. What’s been his message on when to do that?

Brook Lopez:

“It’s about finding the right time to do it. We have to give our guys space with the right spacing. But at the same time, when I need to be doing that, I need to be doing that.”

How are you all adapting to Khris [Middleton’s] absence?

Brook Lopez:

“Of course we miss Khris. He’s an incredible player, an All-Star and an All-NBA player. The great thing about him is that he’s so good and has such a good feel for the game and has a high IQ. He’ll slide right in. He knows his spot to a ‘T.’ You can’t replace Khris. It’s just a matter of coming up and doing their job a bit more. No one can replace Khris.”

Big picture, what’s your comfort level with whether this team has what it takes to win a title?

Brook Lopez:

“We’re in a good place right now. We’re confident that we’ll keep improving and keep getting better. Everyone is putting their best foot forward. They have the right intentions. So it’s not a matter of if, but when.”

Mark Medina is an NBA insider for Sportskeeda. Follow him on X, Instagram, Facebook and Threads.

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