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Brook Lopez is happy to get his shot with the Lakers

Growing up, Brook Lopez often had trouble getting into the paint.

“I had two older brothers so I couldn’t really drive into the paint at all or they would just block my shot — they weren’t very nice older brothers,” Lopez said. “I had to learn how to score other ways and one of those ways was shooting from outside.”

Now 29 years old and seven feet tall, he’s doing both himself — shooting from outside and blocking other people’s shots. On Wednesday the Lakers focused on the present as they held Lopez’s introductory news conference. General manager Rob Pelinka presented his No. 11 jersey and heaped praise upon his leadership ability and his play. In turn, Lopez introduced his dry wit and his willingness to help the Lakers’ young players grow.

“What today is not about, it’s not about players that we traded away; it’s not about creating cap space,” Pelinka said. “It’s about this phenomenal human being and player that we’re so excited to have join the Lakers. … Brook Lopez is exactly the type of individual and NBA player that we targeted to be a core part of what we’re trying to build here.”

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In being traded to the Lakers, Lopez got to come home. He grew up in North Hollywood, before going to high school in Fresno.

“I’m just thrilled to be out here,” Lopez said. “It all happened very quickly. It’s really a dream come true for me. It’s very surreal, like I said before. … I’m a big Cali guy. It’s a dream come true to play for the Lakers.”

Lopez played college basketball at Stanford, along with his twin brother, Robin, who now plays for the Chicago Bulls.

Brook mentioned Robin once during his news conference, to show their family’s historical affinity for the Lakers, and take a playful jab at his brother.

“My brother, his middle name’s Byron, after Byron Scott,” he said. “We’re absolutely a Laker family. That’s the last we’ll talk of him … you got the better twin.”

The better twin spent all of his career until now with the Nets. And while he stayed in the same place, the organization did not in more ways than one. In his nine NBA seasons, Lopez played for nine head coaches. The team’s ownership changed in his second year, when Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov bought the team. The organization moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn five years ago.

When Kenny Atkinson took over as coach last season, he unlocked a part of Lopez’s game he always knew he had, but one he began growing more comfortable using.

“Kenny gave me a chance to shoot the three, and I’m glad he had the confidence in me,” Lopez said.

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Last season Lopez led all NBA centers with 387 three-point attempts after taking only 31 in his first eight seasons.

The Lakers acquired Lopez and a first-round pick last week in a trade that sent D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Nets. They used that first-round pick on Utah’s Kyle Kuzma.

Financially, the trade helped position the Lakers to have the salary cap space for two maximum contracts next summer, when Paul George, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook could be available in free agency. Mozgov is due nearly $50 million over the next three seasons. Lopez, meanwhile, is owed $22 million this coming season, which is the final year of his contract. Once his contract expires, that salary cap space will open up for the Lakers to use.

But to simply call Lopez an expiring contract oversimplifies the matter. His shooting ability is important to Lakers coach Luke Walton’s system. He is also the kind of person they want their young players to emulate.

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“We feel very strongly that he’s worth every dollar he’s negotiated to play this season,” Pelinka said. “I think he backs it with his actions. A lot of guys that are max players take their time get ready for camp. To his credit he was here very quickly in the gym working out with the young players, sweating … that’s a very, very exceptional quality that doesn’t exist with some of the guys that get a max contract and then want to potentially just do things on their own time or their own terms.”

tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli


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