Bulked-up Brook big for Brooklyn

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On Sunday, Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez weighed in at 280 pounds.

Consider: Lopez said he was 265 pounds as a rookie in 2008-09.

Also consider: Nets trainer Jeremy Bettle told Lopez all the additional weight he put on was muscle.

"That's what he says," Lopez said with a laugh. "I hope so."

Lopez's solid frame, developed as a result of hours and hours of workouts, has enabled him to make more of an impact on the defensive end.

This season, Lopez ranks seventh in the NBA in blocks, averaging nearly 2.2 per game. He has always been known for his offense; he's averaging 18.7 points on 52.6 percent shooting. But it's Lopez's improvement as a defender and rebounder -- 7.2 per game, up from 6.0 in 2010-11, his last full season -- that earned him his first All-Star selection.

"I think he came in with a new attitude this year and he knew how much we needed him on the defensive end, holding down the paint, getting blocked shots, altering shots, as well as rebounding," Nets point guard Deron Williams said. "I think for a big man to get bigger and stronger can only help. He's gotten stronger and he's able to move people around the paint better. It's just a more intimidating factor."

Lopez played only five games last season due to foot injuries. But it was during that time that he was able to watch film and learn from his past mistakes on defense. The hours he spent in the weight room didn't hurt, either.

"I just want to be there to help my teammates out," Lopez said. "I know all the good defensive teams have a good big man in the middle, and I want to be that guy."

"The difference in the few games he did play last year and this year is his commitment to defense," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "He's a factor impacting shots, not just on his own man but on penetration. When the other team comes to the basket now, even if he doesn't get a block, he'll contest. It's night and day. His attention to defense is so much better than it was, and it's helped our team defense significantly."

On Tuesday night, Lopez and the Nets will take on Dwight Howard's Los Angeles Lakers at Barclays Center. Given two years of rumors involving Lopez and Howard being traded for one another, their matchup becomes magnified -- assuming Howard plays. He has missed the past two games because of a shoulder injury.

For the record, Lopez is 1-11 in his career against Howard, who has dominated every statistical category -- points (20.8 to 14.5), rebounds (14.5 to 6.4) and shooting percentage (62 to 46.2) -- when they've gone head to head.

"He's a fantastic center, huge talent," Lopez said of Howard. "[But] we wanna win. That's the most important thing."

On Jan. 22, a rumor surfaced that the Nets were preparing yet another run at Howard. Obviously, Lopez's name was involved. But league sources were quick to squash the rumor to ESPNNewYork.com and other outlets. Afterward, Lopez, who signed a four-year, $60 million contract in the offseason to remain in Brooklyn, spoke with GM Billy King about it.

"He was reassuring, but that was it," Lopez said.