Ever since they entered this world a minute apart a little more than 20 years ago — on April Fool’s Day, mind you — Brook and Robin Lopez have been as tight as twin brothers can be.
They have played on the same basketball team since the second grade. They collaborate on movie screenplay attempts and comic book story lines (Brook is the writer, Robin is the artist). They share similar, eclectic tastes in music — Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey top the list — and a fanatical love of Walt Disney memorabilia and trivia.
Even in college at Stanford, Robin had his own room on campus but preferred to sleep on the floor of Brook’s room over the last year when loneliness set in.
But the NBA is cutting the cord.
While Robin was holding up his new Suns jersey in Phoenix Friday, Brook was meeting the Nets media 3,000 miles away in New Jersey, their first day ever as opponents. Now the constant ribbing, and the needed doses of encouragement, will have to come via long distance.
“We’re ready for it. We’d love to play in the NBA together, sure, but that wasn’t going to happen. Unless he dropped down in the second round,” Robin said with a smile. “Brook isn’t just my brother, he’s one of my closest friends. That won’t change. But now we have some different paths to start on.”
Robin feels like he got one over on his brother Thursday. While the Nets are rebuilding, he gets a chance to play with two former MVPs (Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Nash) and two former All-NBA players (Grant Hill and Amaré Stoudemire) on a team that still carries championship aspirations.
When Anthony Randolph, who shares the same agent with Robin, was picked 14th by Golden State, Robin was clapping furiously. He was happy for Randolph, and he knew Phoenix was up next.
“I think I’m the real winner of the draft,” said Lopez, who joked with the media and showed his playful, creative side in answering questions. “(The Suns have) had so much success here for a very long time now. I just think I fit in well here.”
Perhaps in an unconscious attempt to make Lopez feel more at home, Suns coach Terry Porter and Steve Kerr looked like twins Friday — dressing in the same color of vertical-striped shirts. And they sounded like they were sharing the same brain when it came to the impact they felt their new 7-footer would have on their veteran, but defensively challenged team.
“Center is one of the most difficult spots to fill and we were very fortunate to have Robin fall to us,” Porter said. “We’re excited about him stepping in right away and contributing on both ends of the floor, blocking shots and bringing energy to the team.”
Suns officials said that the only reason they were looking to trade up in the first round — talking with Indiana at 11, Sacramento at 12 and Portland at 13 — was because they wanted to make sure they got Lopez. Not Brandon Rush, not Randolph, not even brother Brook, who slipped to No. 10, were rated as high on Phoenix’s board.
They were already sold on his defense and his 156 blocks in two years at Stanford. But when he showed the coaches and scouts that he could consistently hit the 15-to-17-foot jumper, the Suns started zeroing in.
“We know our team will have a lot of focus on Amaré, Shaq and Steve, and it’s important for all of our guys to step away from the hoop and make a shot,” Kerr said. “We were impressed with his abilities and we think he’ll get even better as we go along.”
Lopez calls himself “a perfectionist at the things that are important.” One of his passions is art and he is now six months into his latest project — a 6-foot tall piece which he describes as a cross between Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment” and Rodin’s “The Gates of Hell” — which was inspired by his own trip to the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.
“It’s in pencil right now … I want to go over it in ink,” he said. “It was a class project, but it’s kind of developed into a monster of its own, taking up my weekends.”
The well-rounded twins were known so much for their hobbies and pursuits off the floor that it was actually a concern to some NBA teams that their focus would be distracted from basketball.
“During an interview (Nets GM) Kiki Vandeweghe said ‘You know you have do dedicate a lot of time to basketball (if we draft you). And I said, ‘Um, yeah, I get that … There are other things I can do, but if I didn’t love the game, I wouldn’t be playing it.”
Lopez’s college number, 42, is retired in Phoenix (Connie Hawkins), so he will wear No. 15 with the Suns.
“That was my brother’s (Alex’s) number in college, and it was Magic Johnson’s number when he played in the (Dream Team 1992) Olympics,” he said.
Lopez can’t wait to get started.
“I don’t want to let anybody down,” he said. “And I don’t think I will.”