The crazy hair, the mascot abuse, the fact that he wasn’t afraid to take a swing at an opposing player (Serge Ibaka) in a game in Toronto in March — it all smacks of a player who loves the limelight.
But that’s not Robin Lopez’s style.
In his first season with the Bulls, the 7-footer made an immediate impression on his teammates. He’s soft-spoken, hardworking and a consummate professional.
“If you don’t know him, he looks crazy,’’ forward Nikola Mirotic said. “But when you know him deeply, he’s such a good person. He’s very quiet, very intelligent. He’s always reading and drawing. Just a little different, but if people could meet him, they would be surprised at how good a guy he is.’’
Lopez wasn’t flashy, but the Bulls got exactly what they projected from him when they traded Derrick Rose to the Knicks. Lopez played in 81 games and averaged 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds, including three offensive rebounds per game.
But Lopez’s best numbers are on his contract. He’s guaranteed $13.8 million next season, then $14.3 million for the 2018-19 season. It’s a financially agreeable deal, to say the least.
“I’m going to try to be what I was during the [2016-17] season,’’ Lopez said. “I want to be the backbone and be consistent. I [won’t] cause problems. I want to be here. I’m under contract, and I’m a positive guy. I took away a lot of positives.’’
The team feels the same about him. If there’s a position the Bulls aren’t concerned about, it’s Lopez’s. They’re not debating a Lopez trade or discussing options. He’s a luxury.
“It was an up-and-down season,’’ Lopez said. “I wish I could have done more. I’m grateful for my teammates, though. They put me in so many wonderful situations to succeed.’’
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WHO’S COMING BACK?
Robin Lopez — It would be nice to see more consistency from him in the fourth quarter, but Lopez is the perfect role player for Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. He has no problem doing the dirty work without a complaint.
Cristiano Felicio — The second-year player fell off late in the season, especially in the postseason, and his hands are still a work in progress. He’s a restricted free agent, and the Bulls likely will match any offer unless another team comes in with something off the charts..
WHO COULD BE DEPARTING?
Joffrey Lauvergne — Like Felicio, he’s a restricted free agent, and unless the Bulls draft a center, he’s likely returning on the cheap. Definitely a player on the fringe.
WHO’S OUT THERE?
Greg Monroe headlines the free-agent centers, but it’s not a place the Bulls need to shop in.
Gonzaga’s Zach Collins has played himself into the lottery, so forget about him falling to the Bulls at No. 16. Jarrett Allen of Texas is raw, but he would be an immediate defensive presence off the bench and would add some much-needed athleticism.
The intriguing player for the Bulls to look at is Creighton freshman Justin Patton, who could be a high-ceiling project.
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