The Brooklyn Nets are in trouble, and you can’t even say I didn’t warn you.
After beginning the season 11-4, the Nets have lost four straight and now find themselves with just the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference—no thanks to Brook Lopez.
While Brooklyn remains a much improved team compared to last season, there’s no denying that the gravity of the risk the Nets took this summer when they re-signed Lopez is beginning to rear its ugly head.
Lopez has missed the last five games for Brooklyn, a stretch in which the team has gone 1-4. More troubling than the Nets’ record, however, is the fact Lopez has missed said games courtesy of a mild foot sprain. He missed all but five games last year because of a nagging foot injury as well, which means that this isn’t a matter to be taken lightly, no matter how “mild” a foot sprain it may be.
Well, if his injury history isn’t enough to convince you, perhaps Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York’s report on Lopez’s lack of progress is:
Brooklyn Nets coach Avery Johnson admitted Sunday that center Brook Lopez is recovering slower from a mild right foot sprain than the team initially expected.
Lopez missed his fifth straight game on Sunday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. He is still not ready to practice despite suffering the injury on Nov. 28.
“I think it’s approaching that point now, because obviously I come to these press conferences and I’m basically giving you the same answer. And it’s not like I’m telling you something that’s not the truth, but it’s a little bit slower than what we thought,” Johnson said. “We’ll see if we catch some good fortune here soon where he can heal enough to a point where he can practice and play in the game.”
Not to sound childish, but the only phrase that holds appropriate here is that of “uh-oh”.
Brooklyn invested nearly $60 million in Lopez over the summer, and while his current averages of 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds—not to mention a 23.62 PER—suggest he’s earning that money, there’s no denying this isn’t a huge red flag.
Injuries to big men, especially to the knees, leg and feet can be detrimental. These guys—Lopez included—not only bang in the low post on a daily basis, but their lower extremities bear the constant burden of carrying a towering build. Wear and tear becomes an issue for bigs who are healthy as possible at some point; injuries only increase the rate of the gradual and inevitable deterioration of their movement.
So no, Lopez’s injury isn’t just another injury. And his lack of progress isn’t just a minor setback. But rather, it could serve as a tell-tale sign the Brooklyn and Lopez are destined to fight a losing battle with his knees for the next five years.
Which also means the Nets are destined for mediocrity over the next half-decade as well.
The same tumultuous displays of mediocrity we are currently bearing witness to as Deron Williams and company attempt to navigate life without their leading scorer.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.