Haynes & Jaynes: Robin Lopez
Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey made it a point of emphasis to make sure he exited the 2013 offseason having rectified the center situation.
Olshey's solution? Acquiring 7-0 center Robin Lopez from New Orleans in a three-team deal.
Power forward JJ Hickson served as the team's stop-gap, holding down the five spot during the 2012-13 season. His double-double numbers (12.7 points, 10.4 rebounds per game) were quite impressive, but his skill-set wasn't a dire team need.
Blocking shots, altering shots, clogging up the middle and simply put, making a concerted effort on defense each and every play was what the team lacked from their big-men last season.
Coincidentally enough, those so happen to be Lopez's strong points.
In his first interview since the trade agreement occurred, Lopez tells CSNNW.com that he was at his home in Fresno, Calif., with family and friends when he got the news.
“I heard the rumblings beforehand and then when it finally happened, one of my friends took me online and showed me and I was like, 'Okay. That's cool. I like Portland.'
“I'm excited to be in Portland. I'm going to miss the city of New Orleans, but this is a great opportunity for me to have an impact and play amongst some of the best fans in the NBA. I'll be closer to home, it's just a good situation.”
Lopez, 25, is coming off of his best season statistically after career highs of 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. On top of that, he played and started in all 82 games for the Hornets, now known as the Pelicans.
His first four years with the Phoenix Suns equaled mixed results. You could see the promise and potential, but the seven-footer wasn't able to put together consistent stretches in the amount of playing time he was receiving.
When Lopez was traded to New Orleans last summer, in a three-team deal, as well, he got his opportunity.
“New Orleans had a lot of faith and confidence in me,” he said. “When a team shows you that, you're able to play to your potential. That's why I'm excited to go to Portland. They need what I'm able to provide. I'm very excited and ready to get at it.”
Pairing Lopez up with LaMarcus Aldridge will without a doubt improve the Trail Blazers' defensive issues. Having that big guy in the lane allows the likes of Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews to shade their opponent into some shot-blocking help, something that wasn't present a couple of months ago.
They got their paint protector now. It may not be the long-term solution, but it is a matter that has been taken care of for now.
“The defensive end is the part of my game that I take pride in,” Lopez said. “I just try to be a defensive presence at all times. Blocking shots, altering shots, I feel like I'm more discipline than I was earlier in my career when I was fouling a lot and going for every pump-fake. I try not to foul as much and it has helped me out tremendously. I'm ready to get the job done.”
Lopez says he can't wait to go to Powell's Book Store. Just FYI.