In 2001, Zydrunas Ilgauskas had a similar injury to the one that knocked out Nets center Brook Lopez last season.
The following year, Ilgauskas came off the bench in 39 of his 62 games and played just 21.4 minutes per contest.
Is that the example Lopez will follow?
Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez has spoken briefly with former Cleveland Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who also underwent an osteotomy procedure during his playing career. But Lopez doesn’t think their situations are going to be exactly the same.
“Like I said before, I’m not looking for any restrictions,” Lopez told two reporters Friday. “I’m confident I’m gonna be able to go out there and be better than I’ve ever been. So from that standpoint, I think our timetables will be different.”
Lopez said he’s been fully cleared to play, and the Nets don’t plan to put a minutes restriction on him. So, it seems he can avoid the Ilgauskas slow-and-steady path.
But the best Lopez has ever been?
That’s a high bar.
He was an All-Star in 2013 and playing even better before getting hurt last year. In 17 games, admittedly a small sample, he averaged 20.7 points on 56.3 shooting. His PER, 25.4, would have ranked seventh in the NBA behind only Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Chris Paul.
Yet, the Nets played better without him, switching to a small-ball lineup following his injury.
Now the coach who implemented to shift, Jason Kidd, is gone, and so is the pivotal stretch four, Paul Pierce. Brooklyn, under Lionel Hollins, will look different this season, and Lopez is a big part of that.
It’s up to him to both play well and fit with the rest of the team – all while getting back to tip-top shape.
He’s confident. I’m more curious.