Posted on: October 10th, 2014 by Devin Kharpertian Comments



Brook Lopez, Tony Wroten, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes


Height: 7'1"
Weight: 275 lbs.
Date of Birth: April 1, 1988
Years Pro: 6
Before NBA: Stanford University
Drafted: 10th overall, 2008 NBA Draft
Nickname: B-Lo, Brookie Monster
- Full Stats -

He's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

It’s been a long and weird offseason for the gargantuan Lopez, who played in just 17 games last season before succumbing to a season-ending foot injury smack in the team’s throes of December despair. But after multiple surgeries and months of unshaven boredom, the doctors have cleared Lopez for contact, and he’s entered training camp without the 15 pounds he gained before last season.

Foot injuries are often a death knell for big men, and the jury’s out on if Lopez is an exception. Here’s what we do know: Lopez has twice broken the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot, which connects the heel to the outermost (pinky) toe,once in 2011 and once last season. He’s had three surgeries on that foot, including one that repaired a screw inserted during the initial surgery that had bent. Lopez also underwent left ankle surgery to tighten the ankle ligaments and repair a torn tendon this past March, following two in-season ankle injuries prior to his foot injury.

Lopez walks a bit bowlegged by nature, which adds more pressure to those outer bones. Nets team doctors performed a special surgery that realigned the bone, designed to balance Lopez and lessen the weight on that bone and reduce the chances of further injury. There’s no guarantees, but it’s a start. Slimming back down to 275 doesn't hurt either.

That’s an awful lot of medical talk before we even get to Lopez the player, who when healthy (there it is again) established himself as the league's premier post scorer, an improving rim protector, and an average-at-best rebounder. The Nets were 5.8 points per 100 possessions better with Lopez on the floor than off in his 17 games last year, bested only by Deron Williams and Paul Pierce in the same timeframe.

The book on Lopez starts on the block. He's an extraordinarily gifted scorer, often acting as a release valve for the Nets offense when out of options. He's not a great passer, even for a big man, but makes up for it with his ability to score inside and out, with range out to 20 feet and a soft touch. Even as the Nets fell apart last season, he was headed for numerous career highs, including field goal percentage, offensive rating, PER, and true shooting percentage.

But his offense is well-documented. In The Art of a Beautiful Game, 7'4" human and former NBA center Mark Eaton tells author Chris Ballard about his eureka moment as a defender:

…while playing a pickup game at UCLA, Eaton had an epiphany, spurred by some unsolicited advice from a retired Wilt Chamberlain, who was then in his 40s but still running the floor against men half his age. "We had a guy on our team named Rocket Rod Foster, to this day the fastest guy I've ever seen," says Eaton. "He'd get to the basket about the same time that I got to the top of the key. So I was standing there, huffing and puffing, and I felt a large hand on my shoulder. It was Wilt. He said, 'You're never going to catch that man, first of all. Second, it's not your job to catch him. Your job is to guard the basket, then cruise up to half-court to see what's going on. Because if a quick shot goes up, you have to go back." Eaton pauses. "That day, a lightbulb went on. I figured out my niche in basketball. This is my house, the paint. This is where I live."

Lopez comes from the Eaton school of slow big men, evolving into a surprisingly ace on-ball defender and rim protector by employing the same methods. He knows his opponents want into his real estate, and plants himself in the way, daring them to go above or through him. His biggest assets are his wide body and incredible length — he officially measures as an even seven feet tall, which begs the question how tall he'd measure if he stood up — and once he's got a player in his zone he knows to stay close to the basket and let them force a bad shot over his extended arms.

In his 17 games before injury, opponents shot 39.7 percent on shots at the rim on 9.2 attempts per game against Lopez, which would have led the league among similar players had he kept that up throughout the season. (For a comparable player, Roy Hibbert allowed opponents to shoot 41.1 percent on 9.8 attempts per game, the best in the league among qualifying players.)

Even more staggering was Lopez's post defense. In his limited sample of 44 possessions, Lopez only allowed his man to score just six (6!) times, and committed only two fouls, according to mySynergySports's tracking data. That's right: guys trying to post up against Lopez either missed their shot or committed a turnover upwards of 80 percent of the time, ranking him comically ahead of the rest of the NBA. It's a small sample size, and there's no way Lopez could stay that effective for a full season, but it's also a testament to how good he can be…

…on the ball. Because once he's got to move, Lopez has the lateral speed of an alligator; if he's pushed beyond that precious 12-foot radius around the basket to try to cut off guards, the Nets have already lost. And opponents know that too. Most of that has to do with his slow foot speed, which isn't getting much faster after multiple surgeries. In today's athletically evolving NBA, the big man who can't defend block-to-block is rapidly facing extinction, relegating the 26-year-old Lopez a relic to a past generation.

That makes Lopez the biggest test of Lionel Hollins's coaching acumen. How do you integrate Lopez, who seems straight out of 1994 right down to his pre-internet love of comic books, into today's fast-paced league?

He'll bring 20 points a night with his eyes closed.

But can he stop them, too?





The theme of this pod is "If You Were Commissioner For A Day." Basically, if you could change one thing about basketball, the NBA or the Nets, what would you do. You can tweet at us @bkglueguys or comment below for what you would do. Thanks for listening as always.

TGG starts with some chit-chat about splicing animal genes into our own (among other things) then Nets News Nuggets
(13:00) Jack's Jersey Number: How do we feel about the #0
(17:10) Brook's Weight Loss: What would be a successful season for Brook
(22:45) Plums Team USA Experience and Hollins Big-Man Rotation.
(35:30) If you were commissioner for a day, topics include: L.E.D. Basketball Courts, Relegation, 5-Boro Mascots, the Mid-level Cumulative Continuity Bonus, and a Referee Command Center.

Subscribe to the pod on iTunes


Brook Lopez: 17 G, 17 GS, 31.4 MPG, 20.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.53 SPG, 1.76 BPG, .563 FG% .000 3P%, .817 FT%, 25.50 PER, 4.0 EWA




You already know the story: with the Nets flailing out to a 9-17 start, Brook Lopez was in the midst of a season of individual dominance before breaking his foot in late December against the Philadelphia 76ers, ending his season. The break beget multiple surgeries for Lopez: one to fix the fracture, another to re-align his foot to lessen pressure on the bone, and a third unrelated surgery on his left ankle to tighten his ankle ligaments and fix a torn tendon.

Before we get into the sad part, let's not forget: Lopez broke his foot with about four minutes left in the fourth quarter, then played the remainder of the quarter and all five minutes in overtime. He played nine minutes on a broken foot that eventually knocked him out for the rest of the regular season once a trainer had a chance to look at it. Call him goofy all you want, but don't ever call him soft.

But a sadly lost season for Brook Lopez has left the Nets at an impasse. He's their youngest and most talented cornerstone, a beast on the low block with rim protection skills and an incredible understanding of space near the basket. But he's also dealt with major foot injuries and multiple surgeries over the past two seasons, and the team played its best once Lopez left the lineup for good, forcing them to reimagine their roster.

How do they balance that? Do they figure that the team would've figured out a way to succeed with him in the lineup in 2014? Or do they see Lopez's injury as the catalyst for bigger and better things with the roster, forcing them to get quicker, longer, and shoot deeper throughout their starting lineup?

The Nets will explore the trade market for Brook Lopez. They have to, if only for due diligence. But if he's healthy -- an if as big as Lopez himself -- they'll welcome him back. But foot injuries don't just go away for seven-footers, and they can't just expect he'll return to form, nor can they expect to play the way they did without him.

Must-read: Brook Lopez: twin brother offers glimpse into the Lopez mind



Kevin Garnett

The Nets look like a new team with Garnett one spot over. (AP)

The Brooklyn Nets had to lose their best players to begin playing their best.

Weird, right? Nobody expected this stretch. The Nets just lost their youngest All-Star, Brook Lopez, for the season. Then Deron Williams went down, undergoing treatment on both of his ankles. They got dominated by a San Antonio Spurs team heading into the New Year. At 10-21, without a draft pick, all seemed lost.

Today, they stand at 15-22, in the playoff race. And while there are a lot of factors, they've got 37-year-old Kevin Garnett to thank most.
... MORE →


Kevin Garnett

The Nets look like a new team with Garnett one spot over. (AP)

The Brooklyn Nets had to lose their best players to begin playing their best.

Weird, right? Nobody expected this stretch. The Nets just lost their youngest All-Star, Brook Lopez, for the season. Then Deron Williams went down, undergoing treatment on both of his ankles. They got dominated by a San Antonio Spurs team heading into the New Year. At 10-21, without a draft pick, all seemed lost.

Today, they stand at 15-22, in the playoff race. And while there are a lot of factors, they've got 37-year-old Kevin Garnett to thank most.

Garnett's been vocal about his disdain for playing center, citing more comfort at the power forward position. He signed off on the trade to Brooklyn partially because he'd play next to Lopez, who would take his position in the paint. He played the majority of his first sixteen years at the power forward position, only playing spot minutes at center until playing it full-time his last two seasons in Boston. He, um, didn't like it.

"Should've put that s--- in my contract," Garnett jokes about playing only at the 4. "Don't tell Jason I said that."

But with Lopez out, coach Kidd didn't have much of a choice. Rookie Mason Plumlee is promising, but nowhere near a starting-caliber player yet. Andray Blatche is at the pinnacle of entertainment precisely because he's at the nadir of reliability. Garnett was the natural choice, even if he doesn't consider it his natural position.

Kevin Garnett, Louis Williams, Alan Anderson

"We don't call him a 5,
we call them basketball players."
- Jason Kidd (AP)

Though it's not explicitly stated, it's implied that Garnett doesn't want to be thought of as just another center. The term "center" conjures images of slow, plodding players, known more for winning the genetic lottery than their fleetness and athleticism. Flip Saunders, Garnett's old coach, joked to Sports Illustrated in 2003 that Garnett was actually 6'13".

He takes to his newfound role like a moth to darkness. "It's not my preference, but it is what it is, and whatever we have to do to win," Garnett says of sliding over to the 5. "That's what it is."

Kidd's done what he can to make the change more palatable. "There are no positions," Kidd said when asked about Garnett's change. "Just guard the guy in front of you. We don't call him a five, we call them basketball players."

But despite the positionless basketball mantra, the roles and responsibilities are quite clear. In a lineup filled by a point guard and three wing players, the towering Garnett, at 6'11", 6'13", or whatever height he is, mans the middle as the team's procedural center.

And the difference has been staggering.

Kevin Garnett, Luis Scola

The Big Ticket. (AP)

Brooklyn's offense has hummed along just fine with or without Lopez and Williams, scoring 101.9 points per 100 possessions in 2013 and a nearly-identical 102.3 points per 100 possessions in 2014. But on defense, it's an entirely new ballgame: the Nets have allowed just 99.8 points per 100 possessions in their first six games, which would rank them as a top-7 defense over a full season.

They've slowed down to a snail's pace to accommodate their roster (they've played more than six fewer possessions per game), and it's worked. They've worn down the defending champion Miami Heat, held a revolutionary run-and-chuck Golden State Warriors offense to 3-19 three-point shooting over the final 42 minutes, forced 21 turnovers out of Kevin Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder, and held the third-seeded Atlanta Hawks to 38.6 percent shooting.

Nearly every Nets player has credited the team's communication for their defensive improvement, and the talk starts with Garnett. That's no secret: Garnett's visible and vocal roaming the paint, something Lopez has worked on since his rookie year.

When the Nets are fully healthy, Lopez is the team's best offensive player on a team that has four high-usage offensive-minded starters. Losing his offense is a potential killer, but they've got other high-level offensive players to manage the difference.

Defensively, Lopez is a better pure rim protector than Garnett these days when healthy, and his strength deterred numerous players in the post this season, but he's not the quick help defender that Garnett is, even at 37 years old. At power forward, Garnett's quickness is less important, since he's often out of the paint and out of help position. But as a center, Garnett's a one-man deterrent, leading to plays like this key block on Stephen Curry:

With Garnett on the floor since Lopez went down, the Nets have allowed just 47.9 percent shooting in the paint, and opponents have scored a full ten fewer points in the paint per 48 minutes with Garnett as the team's designated center.

Note: League Average is as of 1/12/2014. Don't see the chart? Refresh the page. Still don't see it? Click here for the non-interactive image.

The NBA calls it smallball, but it's more like longball. With the rangy Garnett and Shaun Livingston (6'7" with a 6'11" wingspan) at point and center, the Nets have two extraordinary wingspans in their starting lineup. Add Paul Pierce (6'7"), Alan Anderson (6'6" with a 6'10" wingspan), Joe Johnson (6'8" with a 6'9" wingspan), and Andrei Kirilenko (6'9" with a 7'4" wingspan), the Nets have a flurry of arms sneaking into passing lanes and blocking shots. (When Deron Williams returns to the lineup, expect him to play alongside Livingston and Anderson for equal stretches; the Livingston-Williams combo has exciting potential, but also leaves the Nets without a point guard off the bench.)

The return of Kirilenko, emergence of Livingston, and added defensive responsibilities for Garnett have turned the Nets into a strong defensive team. Since the beginning of 2014, they've forced more than two more turnovers per game, they've picked up four more points per game off turnovers, and have allowed nearly five fewer points per game in the paint.

Garnett deflects praise to his head coach, who has gone through his own hell this season between a fractured relationship with his former lead assistant, criticism from all angles, and a team decimated by health issues, and soda spills. "I think Jason has simplified some things, I think through the help of communicating and talking to one another, understanding those schemes and understanding what he wants. I feel like it's helping us."

"Then repetition, repetition. As easy as people may think it is to just come in and have one system then change another system up, it's not that easy. Especially when you're trying to create chemistry and create a type of flow."

This isn't a call to trade Brook Lopez, who is still the team's best player. In the long-term, he's their most viable star. Garnett's legs will give at some point, and Pierce, a free agent after this year, will leave an offensive hole that the Nets will need Lopez to fill.

But in the short term this season, the Nets have had the chemistry they needed without Lopez. And all it took was moving their power forward to center, which was only possible by losing their best player.


Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez

The Lopez twins. (AP)

In a wide-ranging interview with Williamette Week, Portland Trail Blazers center and Brook Lopez DNA match Robin Lopez discusses growing up with the Nets center, as well as their shared interests, comic books (of course), and memberships.

Here's a glance at some of Robin's Brook-related answers:
... MORE →


Jazz Nets Basketball

Brook Lopez (AP)

The Brooklyn Nets have been granted a one-time use of the Disabled Player Exception by the NBA, according to a Yahoo! Sports report. The one-time exception would theoretically allow the Nets to replace center Brook Lopez, who underwent an independent examination by the NBA that concluded Lopez's foot would leave him out for the season.

Though the report states that the Nets have until March 10th to use the exception, the exception expires on March 15th. If they want to use it to make a trade, they have until the regular trade deadline of February 20th.

The exception allows the Nets to either sign a player for up to $5.15 million, or trade for a player's contract worth up to $5.25 million if that player is in the last year of his contract.

It does not... MORE →



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Brook Lopez

Brook Lopez (AP)

The Brooklyn Nets have applied for the Disabled Player Exception to replace Brook Lopez, according to a report from Net Income of NetsDaily.

The application was expected before the January 15th deadline. Nets general manager Billy King said at a press conference following Lopez's season-ending foot injury that the Nets would apply for the exception. To get approval, the Nets would need clearance from an impartial NBA doctor that confirms Lopez's injury will keep him out for the year.

If ... MORE →


The answer at center? (AP)

The answer at center? (AP)

With the 7'2" All-Star center Brook Lopez out for the season with a broken foot, Nets head coach Jason Kidd may have found his replacement in the starting lineup -- 6'7" point guard Shaun Livingston.

Wait, what?... MORE →


Joe Johnson

The Nets are headed for disaster. (AP/Kathy Willens)

Could F. Scott Fitzgerald have a written a story with better symbolism than the Brooklyn Nets literally abandoning their 113-92 loss to the San Antonio Spurs tonight with 0.2 seconds left on the clock?

It was a miserable end to a miserable game, the 31st of a miserable, possibly lost season. Things have gotten so bad for the Nets that there aren't many more questions left to ask that don't involve the words "when" and "fired." Beating the Spurs with a full roster that actually cares to play basketball is a daunting task in itself; when your players are lethargic and effortless, it becomes a joke. Gregg Popovich's fine-tuned execution machine chewed the Nets up and spit them out like the sad excuse for a basketball team they are right now.

There are plenty of things wrong with Brooklyn right now: Brook Lopez is out for the season, there is no leadership, there is no semblance of a reliable offensive or defensive system. But there is no hope to establish any of these things without the will to actually try and not wilt under the slightest of pressures. The Nets tonight could not even bother to drag their sorry asses out of the tunnel to finish the final 0.2 seconds of the game. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce seem disinterested, Deron Williams doesn't seem to care, and what's left is a smorgasbord of players who'd like to play but just can't carry a team without the primary players.

This is a bleak team with a bleak outlook. There's no out in sight for the salary-cap hell in which the Nets are imprisoned over the next several years, and the players seem to realize their dismal circumstances. There's no fight, even in a scummy Eastern Conference. The problems are everywhere, and the Nets would rather live in filth than pick up a mop. Maybe Gerald Wallace was right about this team.

Jason Kidd thought he had a handle on this team, but he's no match for the storm of despair that has appeared over Brooklyn. Do these guys want to play for him? It's not for me to say. But whether they're sulking because of Kidd or in spite of him, it's the head coach's job to find some object of positivity, some common goal to encourage players to work. Jeff Hornacek's doing it in Phoenix. Tom Thibodeau has done it the last year and a half without Derrick Rose. They found a way to inspire hard work and effort in far worse situations than the Nets find themselves.

It would be nice if the Nets devised a resolution to try and win regardless of their circumstances, but I fear 2014 will bring more of the same. Of course there is still time to turn things around, but the more I watch this team, the more I see doom. A lot of people on this team would be elsewhere — I often wonder how Garnett and Pierce would be faring alongside their longtime captain Doc Rivers in Los Angeles or Deron Williams in Houston — and it results in an unwatchable slog on a night-to-night basis.

The Nets may have already cast aside the possibility of a positive resolution in 2014. Well, here's mine: if the Nets don't want to be watched, let me oblige them.

I doubt that one will be successful.