Bulls

Family affair takes center stage once again for comedic Lopez twins

Family affair takes center stage once again for comedic Lopez twins

Robin Lopez has earned six technical fouls this season, tied for ninth most in the NBA, and 38 for his career. His twin brother, Brook, has behaved himself this season and only been T’d up four times in 601 career games. But don’t expect the whistles to come out Friday night when the Lopez twins square off against one another for the 18th time in 10 NBA seasons.

“The refs kind of let us go,” Brook said with a laugh during Friday’s shootaround at the United Center. “It bothers me sometimes because he’s such a hack, but it gets a little dirty.”

Added Robin: “The refs let us go to work, do whatever we had to.”

The family affair has become quite a spectacle for the players and their friends and family. The 7-foot twins have come a long way since they each scored two points in a barnburner between the Phoenix Suns and New Jersey Nets. Brook has been named an All-Star and is the Nets all-time leading scorer. Robin has cemented himself as a reliable center, missing just 24 games since the start of the 2012-13 season. He’s played in 81 or more games four of the last five seasons and has played in all 48 for the Bulls this season.

Both have appeared in the postseason, Brook reaching the playoffs twice with Brooklyn and Robin on four occasions with three teams (Phoenix, Portland and Chicago). Both still have plenty left in the tank, but as is the case for most 7-footers in their 10th NBA seasons, their best days are behind them.

Still, there’s always a little something extra that goes on when these two face off against one another. Heading in to Friday’s tilt between the Lakers and Bulls, Robin holds a 9-8 all-time advantage, though Brook’s 19.7 points and 6.8 rebounds trump his 10.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in head-to-head matchups.

Robin agreed tongue-in-cheek with Brook’s assessment of him being a hack, but admitted Brook’s biggest weakness is “all-around basketball IQ. Just general all-around IQ.”

Where Robin lacks in comedic delivery he more than made up for in board games. Robin spent time with Brook and their older brother, Alex, playing the India map on Ticket to Ride.

“I won,” he admitted proudly. “I completed all my routes, I picked up extra routes.”

And make no mistake. The competitive juices will continue to flow Friday night when they take the court. Though Brook is averaging career-lows across the board, he has started nine of the last 10 games for the Lakers, a span in which they’ve gone 7-3. Robin has remained steady as ever in Chicago, averaging 12.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 28.3 minutes. Though the Bulls have opted to play smaller this season, Robin has still found room to produce.

So with the spotlight on them - neither the Lakers nor Bulls are playing for much of anything, despite L.A.'s recent hot stretch - and the referees swallowing their whistles, the brotherly affair could take center stage.

“It’s a pretty cool experience,” Robin admitted. “I have family in town, friends coming into town so it’s a lot of fun.”

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

Anfernee Simons looks more like a ball boy than a 2018 NBA Draft prospect right now. He’s not considered small, what with having a 6-foot-3 frame with a massive 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he weighed in at last week’s NBA Draft Combine at 183 pounds, “heavier” than Lottery-bound guards like Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collin Sexton.

But there’s plenty of potential to unpack from the soon-to-be 19-year-old, baby-faced combo guard. Don’t let the appearance fool you. Simons is one of the most talented players in the class, and a team patient enough to let him develop at his own pace could reap major benefits in due time.

You won’t find much video on Simons, as the IMG Academy star is preparing to be the first prospect to go preps-to-pros without a year in college since Thon Maker did so in 2016.

Simons, a consensus five-star recruit in the 2018 class, originally committed to Louisville in November 2016 and then decommitted the following September shortly after Rick Pitino was fired. Since he had graduated from Edgewater High School in Florida and was playing a post-grad year at IMG Academy, he became eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft because he is a year removed from high school. That’s where he played this past season, declaring for the draft and signing with an agent in late March.

“The opportunity is there. Me and my parents talked about it a lot and I feel like I’m confident in myself that I’ll be able to make this jump,” he said at last week’s Combine. “So I just felt like, do it now and not waste any time.”

Simons has been on the radars of NBA teams, even if he’s not a household name like Ayton, Doncic and Bagley. He’s currently projected outside of the Lottery, in part because teams haven’t seen him compete against collegiate level talent and because his wiry frame almost surely means time in the G-League as a rookie. But again, the skill set is there.

Simons is a point guard with solid range beyond the arc. He may struggle off the ball because of his size, though that long wingspan and a quick release from his chest should allow him to get off shots. He’s a blur in transition and finishes well at the rim – his 41.5-inch vertical was tied for third best at the Combine, and his three-quarters court sprint was eighth fastest.

He’s a mixed bag defensively. Wingspan is the fun buzz word these days, and that will help him at the next level, but his small frame means there’s work to be done. A strength and conditioning coach will salivate at bringing Simons into the weight room and getting his body NBA-ready.

“Just staying durable through 82 games,” Simons answered when asked about his biggest challenge physically at the next level. “Taking care of your body is real pivotal so I feel like learning how to take care of my body now is a good thing.”

Simons maturely answered that the “unknown” of his game will be both a positive and minus during the pre-draft process. While fellow prospects he may face in team workouts don’t know as much about him and, thus, his game, teams also need to find out more about Simons’ game and off-court habits.

“Coming in young, people don’t know who I am and haven’t seen me play much. That’s the good side about coming in early,” he said. “It could be the same thing (negatively). People haven’t seen me like that, so I feel like they don’t know who I am. They probably think I’m too young to play in the league.”

Simons met with the Bulls and has scheduled a pre-draft workout with them. Though the Bulls feel like their rebuild could go quicker than anticipated – especially if they hit on their No. 7 pick – there could be plenty to gain from drafting for upside on a player like Simons.

Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne will both be free agents in 2019, and Denzel Valentine’s long-term future isn’t set in stone in Chicago. That leaves plenty of openings in the backcourt behind Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Simons won’t be ready to contribute much in 2018-19, but the Bulls wouldn’t need him to. A handful of outlets projected Simons as a top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Bulls could snag him a year earlier, let him develop in Hoffman Estates and bring him up in a year when they’re a step closer to contending.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Lauren Comitor (The Athletic) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado Mania continues in Chicago. Do the Cubs even need to trade for him to win the World Series this year?

Ricky Renteria has to bench another player for not hustling. Is this becoming a problem on the South Side?

Plus, Lauri Markkanen is named to the All-Rookie team. Could he be the centerpiece of a trade if the Bulls want to acquire a superstar or move up in the draft? 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: