Lakers center Brook Lopez had no problem getting involved in the shoving match between teammate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and fellow guard Tyler Ulis of the Phoenix Suns during the fourth quarter of Friday night’s 122-113 Suns victory at Staples Center.
“I just tried to get in there and break it up,” Lopez said. “I was just trying to get in the middle of it. If someone throws a punch, maybe it’ll hit me. I can take it.”
Lopez was laughing. But the tone of an interview with Lopez following practice Saturday changed a bit when the subject of what teammate Lonzo Ball did was broached. It was the opposite of Lopez. The skirmish began at the outset of a timeout just as Ball was passing the two combatants. Ball looked over, but just continued to walk on by, rather than get in there. Smart?
“Yeah, I mean, you’re staying out of trouble,” Lopez said. “I feel like I’m big enough to where I can come and get in the middle of it, and I’m not going to do anything crazy. So I’m just trying to get everything under control, help get everything under control.”
Lopez was asked if he had any reaction to Ball’s non-reaction.
“To Zo? No, no, I thought it was just smart staying away from it,” Lopez said.
Ball gave his thoughts postgame.
“It’s the NBA,” he said. “People ain’t really gonna fight, so I ain’t trying to get no tech.”
Coach Luke Walton on Saturday acknowledged that a player on the team talked to Ball about it, when team camaraderie for a situation like this was mentioned. However, Walton was firm in his defense of Ball, his 20-year-old rookie point guard.
Yes, Walton said, it “absolutely” was smart that Ball steered clear of the fracas. No, he’s not concerned about how it appears to others.
“I don’t really care how that looks,” Walton said, “because our guys love Zo. He’s one of the few rookies I’ve ever seen that everybody is just kind of drawn toward him. Vets, everyone really wants him to succeed. They all…