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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Now with Suns, former Stanford Cardinal Robin Lopez returns to McKale without his twin brother”

    Phoenix Suns centers Robin Lopez, front, and Shaquille ONeal take a break during a workout in McKale Center Tuesday. Lopez, an NBA rookie, said he is excited to learn from ONeal, one of the greatest centers of all time.
    Phoenix Suns centers Robin Lopez, front, and Shaquille O’Neal take a break during a workout in McKale Center Tuesday. Lopez, an NBA rookie, said he is excited to learn from O’Neal, “”one of the greatest centers of all time.””

    Hours away from their life-altering evening, Stanford’s Brook and Robin Lopez mingled outside on a humid summer afternoon in New York City.

    Hundreds of fans surrounded the makeshift outdoor stage, where the Lopez twins promoted Wrigley’s chewing gum as the “”Double Mint Twins”” with their goofy, fun-loving personalities.

    After shooting hoops with kids, the twin 7-footers signed autographs and answered questions about growing up and playing college basketball as twins. One pre-teenager even asked who gets more women.

    Together, they laughed and embraced the fan interaction candidly, despite the eclipsing presence of an intimidating shadow: Madison Square Garden. Brook and Robin stood hours away from the 2008 NBA Draft on the courtyard of America’s basketball Mecca.

    As projected first-round draft selections, both knew time together was limited after spending their entire lifetimes playing alongside each other in Fresno, Calif., for high school and at Stanford for college.

    The New Jersey Nets selected Brook 10th overall, and at his ensuing press conference, the question was asked about not playing with Robin. But unlike previous interviews leading up to the Draft, where the lighthearted Brook often joked that Robin “”sucked,”” or “”wasn’t good enough for the NBA,”” Brook came to a realization.

    “”I don’t know. I don’t know. It will be strange,”” Brook said in a rare case of seriousness. “”I don’t know when the last time was. But you know, you pretty much knew it was going to happen, so I’ve been getting ready for that and here it is. I’ll tell you after a year of playing without him.””

    Five spots later, NBA commissioner David Stern announced on the stage of the Washington Mutual Theatre that the Phoenix Suns selected Robin 15th overall, solidifying the inevitable.

    Now, four months after a nerve-racking draft day, both Lopez twins have returned to the courts for their first NBA training camp – almost 2,500 miles apart.

    “”You know our generation – we have Facebook, MySpace, we’re texting all the time,”” Robin said Tuesday at Suns training camp in McKale Center. “”So (keeping in touch) hasn’t really been that big of an issue (with Brook).””

    After a two-year tenure at Stanford, Robin certainly became familiarized with McKale Center and the Pacific 10 Conference.

    Last season, Robin overcame UA forward Chase Budinger in a dramatic 67-66 victory over the Wildcats. Robin blocked Budinger’s potentially game-winning shot at the final seconds of regulation time on Feb. 16, exemplifying his reputation as the more defense-oriented Lopez twin.

    While Brook often grabbed the headlines in college – he averaged 19.3 points per game – the duo always complemented Stanford’s front court in both aspects of the game, propelling the Cardinal to a Sweet Sixteen appearance last season as a No. 3 seed.

    “”I won’t be able to rely on him to do the dirty work and stuff like that, so I can show off my game more,”” Brook said at the draft.

    Regardless of the outcomes, Robin respects two hard-fought seasons against Arizona in Tucson, Palo Alto, Calif., and Los Angeles for the Pac-10 Tournament – he collectively went 3-2 against the Wildcats during his two seasons at Stanford.

    “”It’s a pleasure to be back,”” Robin said. “”First, it brings back memories, and second, it’s such a storied institution. There’s a certain level of comfort. I’m very comfortable with my teammates. It makes it that much easier for me.””

    Robin may be without his brother on the court, but if one current NBA teammate could replicate his loose personality, Shaquille O’Neal would fit the mold – both literally and figuratively.

    O’Neal, who is 7-foot-1, also began his first Suns training camp this week after arriving in Phoenix midseason last year.

    But with 16 years of professional experience under O’Neal’s belt, his “”first time”” NBA experience in Tucson is far different from a rookie’s debut.

    “”I couldn’t imagine any other big man, a rookie in the NBA, being in a better situation,”” Robin said. “”I’m learning from one of the greatest centers of all time. He’s had so many different experiences on and off the basketball court, he’s been playing for (16) years. You can pretty much talk to him about anything.””

    Added O’Neal: “”I’m kind of jealous of him because he makes me say I wish I was 20 again. He’s young. I just have to pass my knowledge down to him because one day he’s going to be the starting guy here. It’s obvious that he’s going to be the future of this team in 742 days.””

    Robin will be worked into the rotation while developing into the Suns’ future center. First-year Suns head coach Terry Porter will have a dynamic group with the athletic and defense-minded Robin, the veteran offensive powerhouse O’Neal and three-time All-Star Amaré Stoudemire in the front court.

    “”We’ve got two 7-footers who can really cause havoc at both ends of the floor,”” Porter said.

    O’Neal, known off the court for his candid remarks and witty antics, complements Robin’s creativity and down-to-Earth mentality. It’s no secret that Robin, who was an art and film studies major at Stanford, enjoys comic books, anything Disney and joking around with his brother.

    So who’s the bigger goofball?

    “”He’s the vet so I’m going to have to give him that, if it’s in a positive light,”” Robin said. “”If it’s in a negative light I’m going to have to take that.””

    The rookie said all the right things. But he’s still unsure what’s in store for rookie duties.

    “”Not yet so much. We just have to get on the early van,”” Robin said. “”I’ve heard about singing but I don’t know when that’s going to pop up. I heard we’re going to have to go pick up doughnuts early in the morning. I’m sure that’s going to be a surprise as well.””

    It will be a surprise, much like Robin’s first basketball game will be without seeing a mirror image of himself in the paint.

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