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.
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