HANGTIME SOUTHWEST — Brook Lopez is day-to-day, and a franchise holds its breath.
In his third game back last season from a broken right foot, Lopez destroyed the Dallas Mavericks for 38 points and teammate Deron Williams roared: “He was a monster tonight.”
Lopez lasted just two more games, a second injury to his size 20 right foot ending his season for good. But the league and Williams — who would choose the Nets over the Mavs last July — got a glimpse of what could be with the 7-footer with the sweet set shot.
The hard-luck Nets, rebranded in black and white and having taken Brooklyn by storm, couldn’t escape the season’s first month without another scare from Brooks’ brittle right foot. The medical report on this one — a ligament sprain to the mid-foot and not a fracture — allowed for a brief exhale.
Still, it can’t be comforting for a franchise that removed itself from the Dwight Howard circus and awarded Lopez a $61 million contract. The Stanford man played at an All-Star level in his first 14 games, leading the Nets in scoring at 18.5 points a game on a career-best 53.4 percent shooting. His rebounding is improving and he’s blocking more shots than ever before.
Most disappointing for Lopez is he didn’t miss a game through his first three seasons and now has played in just 19 of the last 83. The moment he went down in the final of two preseason games following last year’s lockout will go down as the start of his injury timeline.
There has to be real concern here, although the Nets are swallowing hard trying not to show it. Big men have endured a notorious history with chronic foot ailments, the most famous being Bill Walton, the most recent being Yao Ming.
At the moment, Lopez is listed as day-to-day. He’s missed the last three games. The Nets, 11-6 overall, are 1-2 without him, losing two games they might have lost with him, at Miami and against Oklahoma City. But Avery Johnson’s bunch sure would have loved to attack those clubs with a revived Andray Blatche spelling Brooks instead of starting for him.
Lopez’s availability for Friday’s home game against the improved Golden State Warriors is uncertain. So are the Nets’ heady prospects if problems with Lopez’s big right foot continue to persist.