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Phoenix Suns Pick Up 2011-12 Option For Robin Lopez

The Phoenix Suns have announced that they have picked up the 2011-12 option for third-year center Robin Lopez.

The move was expected, given Amar'e Stoudemire's departure and Lopez's emergence as a legitimate NBA starting center in the latter half of last season. The team has high expectations for their big man, who averaged 11.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks after becoming a starter in January.

Without the inside presence of Stoudemire, Lopez is likely to be one of Steve Nash's primary pick-and-roll partners and will have to carry the majority of the rebounding load, with the rest being obtained by committee among the team's many wings.

Outside of Nash, Jason Richardson and perhaps Hedo Turkoglu, the burden of a successful season falls most squarely on Lopez's shoulders, who is really the team's only true threat in the paint. Lopez will have to perform up to lofty expectations if the Suns hope to remain in the playoff picture after an offseason riddled with turmoil and turnover.

Obviously, the team has faith that Lopez will not disappoint. So far in the preseason, he has played well and his improved game is likely to carry over into the regular season -- barring any injuries, of course, which have unfortunately become a concern after being sidelined with a broken foot and a bulging disc last season.