By Cory Bernstein
Brook Lopez has a stress fracture in his right foot, and is expected to miss four to six weeks with the injury and the ensuing surgery. Obviously, this is a crushing blow for the Nets. I expected Lopez to have a monster season with Deron Williams throwing him excellent passes and his bout with mono behind him. In typical Net fashion, Lopez gets injured after every semi-decent center is signed so the Nets are between a rock and a Johan Petro. This is not good.
With DeShawn Stevenson’s signing, (which I am indifferent about), the Nets have about eight million dollars in cap room to make another move. A trade is unlikely, for a major center piece, although with the madness that has gone on the last few weeks who knows what will happen. As of this writing (3:45), Chuck Hayes is available as a free agent. I respect Hayes maximizing for his great work ethic and the improbability of a 6-6 center being good in 2011, and he could be an okay short-term answer. If Hayes signed a one-year deal worth eight to nine million dollars, would he accept it? Hayes obviously has some problem with his heart to get his contract voided, though its unknown what his issue really is. A Deron-Morrow-James-Hump-Hayes lineup is not good but also better than Detroit, Cleveland, Charlotte, and Toronto’s best five to name a few.
Hayes or no Hayes, this is an utter and complete disaster. The Nets largely did in the 2011 off-season what they did in 2010’s, except much smarter. Instead of doing stupid things like signing Johan Petro and Travis Outlaw to a combined forty five million dollars (It sounds just as bad now as it did then), the Nets signed Shawne Williams and Shelden Williams to do what those two did for seven million. Getting Hump on a one year deal was very good, and DeShawn Stevenson is a plus defender who hates LeBron James, so that is nice.
But those guys are just role players, they play a role. The Nets need to surround Deron Williams with other players who are more than at and the only other guy on the roster who fits that bill is Brook. Losing him kills us offensively, and makes Deron Williams difficult job nearly impossible. Brook would have been Deron’s go to guy this season. Few other teams have a center with the unique offensive skill-set of Lopez, a player who is seven feet tall with a jumpshot that is money from eighteen feet in. There’s a reason why he’s the centerpiece of a Dwight Howard trade, because he is a very good player. Without him, Deron Williams is going to struggle mightily. If Lopez does not come back full strength and a Dwight trade never happens, don’t be surprised if he leaves for greener pastures.
A Dwight Howard trade will now be very difficult, even with Billy King the multi-team trade master Billy King as GM. It’s no secret that Andrew Bynum is better at basketball than Brook Lopez, but in a trade for Dwight it seemed that Otis Smith would have preferred Lopez because he never missed a game. However, centers are like horses in that leg injuries can be career-crippling.
A guy with such a long, immense body like Lopez his feet and knees need to be in peak shape to keep his body moving and to support his massive frame. A stress fracture for anyone sucks, but for a budding big man like Lopez it is simply devastating. The Nets took a major step back today, and we can only hope for the immediate and long-term future of the New Jersey and soon to be Brooklyn Nets that Lopez makes a full recovery.
If not, it has officially hit the fan.
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