Offseason starts early as Brooklyn shuts down Lopez, Young


Brook Lopez’s and Thaddeus Young‘s work for the Brooklyn Nets apparently is done for 2015-16, which means the two veteran frontcourt players won’t suit up for a game that counts for nearly seven months. And here you thought summer vacation was great back in your grade school and high school days.

We’re all familiar by now with the tendency for playoff-bound NBA teams at this point in their schedules to rest stars or veterans or both in anticipation of a “second season” that could add as much as two months and 28 games to their workloads. This is the flip side, starters and other heavy-minutes guys on bad or mediocre teams getting shut down with games remaining.

Sometimes it’s done to limit their exposure to injuries in games that barely matter. Sometimes their teams want to give minutes to younger, less-developed, unknown-quantity types further down the roster. Sometimes, it seems, it’s even a gesture to spare them from the ignominy of playing hard while going nowhere.

In the Nets’ case, we’re being asked to believe it’s all of the above. Interim Brooklyn coach Tony Brown said before Sunday’s matinee against New Orleans that his team would slog through its final six games without its top two scorers and rebounders.

“We’re going to shut those guys down,” Brown told reporters. “Obviously get them to recover from the long, grueling season, get that process started early.”

Provide your own wisecrack about lottery-bound teams not having seasons that are particularly long or grueling, compared to the 100 games or so that the NBA’s elite play each year.

Lopez averaged 20.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists to Young’s 15.1 points and 9.0 rebounds. Combined, they accounted for 35 percent of the Nets’ total points so far this season, 38 percent of their rebounds and 27 percent of Brooklyn’s minutes played. Each had appeared in 73 of 76 games, with the Nets going 0-3 when each was out.

At 21-55, Brooklyn’s final spot in the Eastern Conference standings is locked at No. 14, but with games remaining against Washington, Charlotte, Indiana and Toronto, a less-competitive Nets team could impact some playoff positioning. Here’s some context on the move via TheBrooklynGame.com:

It was a decision that came from the team’s upper management, not Brown, with the long-term health of the players and the organization in mind. Brown had not spoken with Young or Lopez about the decision.

“To be honest with you, I haven’t had that conversation with Brook and Thad, I would throw that back at (general manager) Sean (Marks),” Brown added. “I’m sure he’s had some contact with their representation. But I think they do understand. Like I said, I haven’t talked to them. We’re just trying to be proactive. It’s a chance to get some other guys on the floor that normally probably wouldn’t play as much.”

The 21-55 Nets have no incentive to tank their record: they currently hold the fourth-worst record in the league, and will turn over their first-round draft pick to the Boston Celtics no matter where it lands.

Without the normal incentive to win (a playoff chase) or lose (a draft pick), Nets management is in a period of evaluation. Only six players — Young, Lopez, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris McCullough, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Sean Kilpatrick — have guaranteed contracts for next year, while an additional three have player options for next season.

“The guys who will get an opportunity to play, play your minutes hard, play aggressive, play with high intensity,” Brown said. “We pretty much know the style we like, with the pace and ball movement. We want to continue to do that, and whoever the guys are that get on the floor, we want to see them work in that environment. It won’t change much, but obviously the faces will, but our approach is still the same.”

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