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Don't expect separation anxiety

Stanford's Lopez brothers gave up final two years of school for shot at the NBA.

June 22, 2008|From the Associated Press

Brook and Robin Lopez have been playing basketball together since the first grade. From driveway one-on-one to high school in Fresno, and later at Stanford, the twin 7-footers have never been far apart.

So you could forgive them for being sentimental about the future. The NBA draft on Thursday will likely separate the 20-year-olds for the first time in their lives.

But, frankly, you'd be wasting the compassion.

"It's the same adjustments really, it's just that I won't have that guy following me around anymore," joked Brook, the elder by a minute.

"I'm definitely not going to miss the guy, that's for sure," retorted Robin, whose bushy mop helps distinguish between the two.

All kidding aside, it will be a dramatic change for the Lopez twins, both of whom could be first-round selections. Besides sharing hoops, they also collaborate on ideas for novels, comic books and screen plays. When Stanford split them up in separate dorms, which is policy for freshmen, Robin spent weekends crashing on his brother's floor. They even talk in the same deep, flat pitch, though Brook is more chatty.

"We're very close. I don't know if best friend would do it, but I guess close friends," Brook Lopez said.

But they are also eager to prove themselves individually at the next level, and it starts with the draft. When the brothers announced on March 31 that they would forgo their final two years at Stanford for a shot at the NBA, they did so in individual statements. And when draft day comes, they'll be sitting at separate tables in New York.

Brook Lopez is projected as a top-10 pick, and has worked out with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Seattle SuperSonics, who pick third and fourth, respectively.

Known as the better scorer, he averaged 19 points and eight rebounds last season and was named an Associated Press third-team All-American.

He scored at least 30 points in four games and had nine double-doubles, but wants to demonstrate more versatility in the NBA.

"I just think it's limiting," he said of the "offensive twin" label. "I'd like to show a little more of my inside-out game. At Stanford, it was a little bit difficult for players to 'D' me up in the post, so that was a strength of ours. We just pounded it in the block. But I really feel I could play both the 4 or 5 position."

Robin Lopez, who averaged 10 points and five rebounds last season, embraces his role as a defensive stopper. He had 156 blocks in two seasons at Stanford, giving him the school's second-best career total. The center pulled down double-digit rebounds in four games, including 10 offensive boards in a season-best 14-rebound performance against Cal.

He is projected to go mid to late first round, and has worked out for the New Jersey Nets, Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors. But Robin Lopez is taking it easy now after spraining a foot working out in Santa Monica with his brother and other top prospects.

"I went to the workouts and I played like I felt I should've," Robin said. "I don't think there's anything for me to prove, not for the people that really and truly matter."

Both brothers view Tim Duncan as an NBA role model, for his numbers and work ethic.

"He's not really flashy," Brook Lopez said. "Just a guy that goes in there and does what's required, does what's asked of him."

To help ease the transition to the pros, Brook plans to live with an older brother.

The boys' mother Deborah Ledford, who just retired after 33 years teaching high school math and German, could help Robin as a personal assistant, she said.

"They just turned 20; they're young," the 6-foot Ledford said. "Of course all the draft picks are young, and the top ones are even younger."

It has been a long ride for Ledford, who also has two older sons. Alexander, who is 6-foot-10, played a year at Washington before finishing his collegiate career at Santa Clara.

Ledford remembers the boys' sometimes heated contests in the driveway. It cost her a door screen after things went sour one day.

"If Brook beat Robin there were no fights afterward, but if Robin beat Brook then Brook would get quite upset," she said. "I can remember him throwing a basketball and breaking the screen. Brook opened the front door and threw the ball, and boom, there goes the screen."

The Lopez twins couldn't say who won more of those daily battles -- there were far too many to count. But it will be hard not to when they meet at the next level, on opposite teams and with much more at stake.

"It'll be an experience," Brook said, chuckling. "We'll be playing with fouls."

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