HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU — The compressed NBA schedule has claimed another victim before the season even gets started, and the victim was one of the more durable players in the league.
The New Jersey Nets took one on the chin Wednesday when Brook Lopez suffered a stress fracture in his right foot in the first half of the team’s final preseason game. Lopez will have surgery to repair his fifth metatarsal on Friday.
The potential effects of Lopez’s injury are two-fold.
First, the Nets’ chances of making the playoffs are now pretty slim. If Lopez was healthy, I could see New Jersey fighting for the eighth spot in the East with Milwaukee and Atlanta, especially if the Nets were to add Andrei Kirilenko. But now, they have only Johan Petro and Shelden Williams to man the center spot, which spells trouble.
Second, the Nets obviously won’t be trading for Dwight Howard anytime soon because Lopez was the centerpiece of their offer to Orlando.
One of the biggest arguments for Lopez over the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum in the Howard sweepstakes was that Lopez hadn’t missed a game in his three-year career, while Bynum has averaged just 55 games in his six seasons. But it’s clear now that every 7-footer (not named Dwight) comes with a risk of injury.
The Nets believe Lopez should be able to return sometime in February, and the trading deadline isn’t until March 15. Besides, by using some of their cap space to sign Kris Humphries and DeShawn Stevenson (which hasn’t been formally announced yet) to one-year deals, the Nets were pretty much planning on not getting Howard until close to the deadline anyway.
So it’s likely that Lopez’s absence will hurt more in the short term.
Update: Nets acquire center Mehment Okur from Jazz for second-round pick in 2015.