Bringing Robin Lopez into the mix after Brook Lopez’s stellar first season has worked about as well as possible for the Milwaukee Bucks.
When the Milwaukee Bucks signed Robin Lopez as a free agent in the summer of 2019, it wasn’t difficult to imagine how he would be utilized by coach Mike Budenholzer.
After all, his twin brother Brook Lopez had just enjoyed a tremendous first season playing in the Bucks’ system, and with a hole at backup center, who better to ensure continuity than Robin?
The result has been the steadiest and most consistent center rotation the Bucks have had in a long time, and that comes even with Brook suffering a notable down year offensively.
Part of that has undoubtedly been fueled by how the Bucks’ system was already tailored toward many of the strengths he shares with his brother, but the opportunity to turn to each other for advice has also undoubtedly been a key component.
Publicly, the Lopez twins love to go at each other, fueling the sense of an overly competitive rivalry. It’s rare that the mask drops on their performative dislike of each other, but that’s exactly what happened in a wide-ranging interview with ESPN’s Ros Gold-Onwude earlier this week.
Asked how they can help each other in-season now that they’re finally playing on the same NBA team, Robin pointed to how Brook has helped him to pick up the various intricacies of the Bucks’ defensive system:
“He has a year of experience in this system, particularly with defensive schemes — Bud likes to get funky with a lot of defensive schemes here or there for specific teams — and Brook’s been very helpful in those situations.”
To which, Brook replied:
“It’s been a good experience, because he does fit in with our team’s defensive mindset, especially. Seeing what he does out there, obviously he does a lot of the dirty work and stuff some people don’t want to do. Protecting the basket, obviously a big thing in what he do, and he does that in spades. And it’s great just to see him go out there and he always has people’s backs, regardless of what the situation is. He buys into that Bucks DNA really well.”
Of course, heading into the season, a lot of the questions put to general manager Jon Horst and Coach Budenholzer about having both brothers on the roster focused on the potential for things to get heated in practices. The twins have loved to go toe-to-toe since their days at Stanford, and Budenholzer had voiced confidence that there would be no issues with that in Milwaukee.
Brook joked that Bud is, in fact, often the instigator between the brothers, though, stoking the fires by pitting them against each other in practice.
“I think Coach Bud is actually a little part of getting the rivalry going. He says he doesn’t really like it, he doesn’t want it to interfere with team dynamics or any of our goals. But he’s always the one out there, when we scrimmage at the end of practice, it’s always, ‘Robin’s guarding Brook, Brook’s guarding Robin.’ How does he think that’s going to go, honestly?”
Looking at the Bucks’ results this season, there has certainly been no negative effect of pairing the twins together on the same squad.
Milwaukee’s defense has improved further, Robin has played a crucial role in helping the Bucks’ chemistry to grow even stronger, and, combined, the twins make up one of the most formidable center tandems in the NBA. The Bucks couldn’t have asked for anything more than that.