Most of the wistful “might-have-been” stories about the Brooklyn Nets revolve around Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and championship rings.
But tonight’s point guard matchup highlighted a different one, one that would’ve meant more today.
As multiple outlets reported and The Brooklyn Game has independently confirmed, the Nets and Thunder were very close to a Reggie Jackson-Brook Lopez swap at last year’s trade deadline, close enough that both Lopez believed he was going to Oklahoma City, the Thunder were preparing to integrate Lopez into their offense, and Brooklyn was prepping to sell Jackson as the franchise leader.
But the Thunder pulled out at the last second, instead sending Reggie Jackson to Detroit in a package that landed them Enes Kanter from the Utah Jazz. Lopez stayed in Brooklyn and helped propel the Nets on a surprise playoff run, winning back-to-back Player of the Week Awards and a third this past year.
But while the Nets have cooled, Jackson took off with the Pistons, winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week twice in December.
Saturday night, it didn’t take long for him to take control against the team he might have called his own.
Jackson hit two quick three-pointers — one off pretty ball movement and another in transition. He found Andre Drummond rolling to the basket for a dunk in a way that the Nets haven’t found Brook Lopez yet this season. He attacked the basket the way the Nets wished Deron Williams or Shane Larkin could, but controlled their offense in a way they wished Jarrett Jack could.
Andre Drummond put up the big numbers, but he was Jackson’s beneficiary — the majority of Drummond’s shots were assisted by Jackson.
Meanwhile, the Nets are anchored the goofy, lumbering Lopez, who can score just enough to make possessions work but cannot run the offense by himself.
The Nets, who have struggled to produce in the fourth quarter, were outscored 31-23 in the final frame, which turned a close third-quarter contest into a blowout loss.
They cannot find their best player in good positions to score. They do not take enough three-pointers to make the three-pointer a legitimate weapon. They lack defense on the wings and quickness inside. They do not attack the basket; they do not close out fourth quarters. At 10-27, they will not make the playoffs; as part of their earlier moves, they will not earn their lottery pick. Once again, we’re left watching with little left to say.
Par-for-the-course game for Lopez on the offensive end: some jumpers, easy shots inside, and a few silly ones that fell because Lopez has a Midas touch within six feet.
Somewhere out there is a defensive scheme, built around quick guards, constant switches, and turnover-inducing length on the wings that allows Lopez’s size and shotblocking ability to thrive inside and boost a defense into above-average status.
That has yet to happen in Lopez’s career.