With the Brooklyn Nets long out of playoff contention and six games remaining on the schedule, the team’s two best players — Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young — have been shut down for the season.
“We’re going to shut those guys down, Obviously get them to recover from the long, grueling season, get that process started early,” Nets interim head coach Tony Brown said before Sunday afternoon’s Nets-Pelicans game.
It was a decision that came from the team’s upper management, not Brown, with the long-term health of the players and the organization in mind. Brown had not spoken with Young or Lopez about the decision.
“To be honest with you, I haven’t had that conversation with Brook and Thad, I would throw that back at (general manager) Sean (Marks),” Brown added. “I’m sure he’s had some contact with their representation. But I think they do understand. Like I said, I haven’t talked to them. We’re just trying to be proactive. It’s a chance to get some other guys on the floor that normally probably wouldn’t play as much.”
Lopez and Young have each played 73 of a possible 76 games this year, with Lopez playing 2,457 minutes to Young’s 2,407. Lopez ends the season with averages of 20.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game, while Young added 15.1 points and a career-high 9.0 rebounds per game.
Lopez, according to Andy Vasquez of the Bergen Record (vis YES Network), Lopez understands the shutdown.
“(Marks) just wanted to take sort of a precautionary angle going forward … I’m not used to this. I like being in the locker room, I love being around the guys in the facility. It’s something I took for granted before being hurt. I don’t want to be missing any of this.”
The 21-55 Nets have no incentive to tank their record: they currently hold the fourth-worst record in the league, and will turn over their first-round draft pick to the Boston Celtics no matter where it lands.
Without the normal incentive to win (a playoff chase) or lose (a draft pick), Nets management is in a period of evaluation. Only six players — Young, Lopez, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris McCullough, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Sean Kilpatrick — have guaranteed contracts for next year, while an additional three have player options for next season.
As of press time, Brown was unsure if Bogdanovic would play, and Donald Sloan (upper respiratory) would not make it to the arena. He did say that Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington, and Thomas Robinson would certainly be in the starting lineup.
“The guys who will get an opportunity to play, play your minutes hard, play aggressive, play with high intensity,” Brown said. “We pretty much know the style we like, with the pace and ball movement. We want to continue to do that, and whoever the guys are that get on the floor, we want to see them work in that environment. It won’t change much, but obviously the faces will, but our approach is still the same.”