Brook Lopez Done For Season, What's Next For Brooklyn?
The Brooklyn Nets have struggled out of the gate to find consistent success this season. Injuries to players like Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko, and Jason Terry were perhaps the main reason why this Nets team hasn’t had the success they had hoped for. With the health problems this team has been enduring all season they have won and abysmal 9 of the 26 games played. Just when Nets fans thought injuries were behind them, x-rays came in on their big man’s troublesome foot.
Brooklyn’s All Star Center Brook Lopez was declared out for the season.
An injury all too familiar to the Nets fans, the x-ray revealed a fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. This is same foot that had previously been surgically repaired and caused him to miss most of the 11’-12’ NBA season. Lopez is the centerpiece of the Nets offense and this is certainly a devastating blow to the franchise.
The injury has Nets fans asking; “What now?’
Is Mikhail Prokhorov’s ‘5 Year Plan’ still the course the Nets are taking after this injury? If the franchise does still plan to aim high and still believe they can win a championship this year they would look to trade. The Nets have already hit the salary cap for the season which would mean they cannot afford to trade for a big name player and take on his contract.
There is a loop hole in the new 2011 CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) called the ‘Disabled Players Exception’ which allows a team to acquire a replacement player who’s salary is 50% or less of the injured player’s salary. Nets General Manager Billy King has stated that the team will apply for the Disabled Player Exception which gives them the option to explore trades and allow them acquire a replacement for their injured center.
Brook Lopez is set to earn approximately $14.7 million this season which means a possible replacement center must have a salary of $7.35 million or less in order for the Nets to make a trade and not really change up the roster too much other then trading a bench player or two. With that budget the Nets could look to acquire Marcin Gortat or Spencer Hawes as both of their contracts end after this season.
The Nets could also explore the possibility of including Paul Pierce in a deal to find a replacement center. By doing this they wouldn’t need to apply for Disabled Player Exception because of the size of Pierce’s contract. If they were able to dump the future Hall of Famer’s hefty $15 million contract they can really begin to explore the market for better options at center. Getting rid of the bind of Pierce’s contract opens new options for the Nets including checking in on players like Zach Randolph, Greg Monroe, Pau Gasol, or Anderson Varejao. All of whom have been rumored to be on the trading block.
Even though Paul Pierce is finally looking comfortable with his new role with the Nets, dumping his contract would not only allow them to invest in a high profile replacement for Brook Lopez but also more cap room for the upcoming offseason.
Nets GM Billy King also stated earlier Sunday morning that nothing is imminent in terms of making moves to replace Brook Lopez. He would also go on to say “We’ve got 14 other guys who can step up”. Referring to Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, and Mason Plumlee. Expect an increase in minutes for all three of the Nets big men especially Andray Blatche who many expect to increase his offensive role at least until a trade is made. Also the Nets will likely move Kevin Garnett up to center just as they did when Lopez missed games earlier in the season. We can speculate all we want but for now we can’t definitively determine exactly how minutes will be distributed amongst the Nets big men until we see how Coach Jason Kidd attempts to solve this puzzle in their next game.
The Brooklyn Nets(7-19) are at home Monday night to take on Paul George and the Indiana Pacers (21-5) 7:30PM EST.