Nets center Brook Lopez missed the first 32 games of this season with a broken right foot. Recently, Lopez sprained his right ankle. He is expected to be out for around 3 weeks, but Nets GM Billy King has reportedly considered shutting down his young center for the remainder of the season. From Colin Stephenson of the Star-Ledger:
Nets GM Billy King said the team is being cautious with Lopez and considered shutting him down for the entire season.
“We’ve got a young player, 23, and we’re gonna make a decision, do we keep him out the rest of the year? Because I think it’s important for us to have a healthy Brook Lopez,” King said. “He’s not going to be out for the rest of the year but at three weeks, if he still have a little soreness in the ankle, we’re going to hold him out. Because my main concern is about Brook Lopez, going forward at 23 years old. We want him as healthy as possible.”
It’s no secret that the Nets’ future is contingent on two things happening: the team keeping Deron Williams and acquiring Dwight Howard. Both players will be free agents at the end of this season, Howard has made it known he’d like to play in Brooklyn, and a Lopez-for-Howard swap has been the source of much discussion over the past few months.
Shutting Lopez down for the season would certainly decrease the chances of a Lopez-for-Howard trade at the deadline, but with the Magic looking like they might want to keep their franchise center for the season and risk free agency rather than trade him now. If that happens, the Nets would have an all-or-nothing off-season. If they can convince Howard to sign with them in free agency, they’ll likely be able to keep Williams and trade Lopez for some pieces that would fit well alongside the two superstars. If the team can’t get Howard, then there’s a high probability that Williams will leave and the Nets will return to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Right now, the team is only 12-26, and a high-lottery pick may actually be more beneficial for them in the long term than a semi-respectable record would be if Lopez returns but does not get traded for Howard at the deadline. It will be interesting to see what happens.