NEW YORK -- Brook Lopez did not want his season to end early.
But given that his team’s future is much more important than its present, new Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks decided to shut down Lopez -- along with his starting frontcourt mate, Thaddeus Young -- for the remainder of the season. Marks called Lopez before Brooklyn’s game in Orlando earlier this week to inform him of the decision.
“I think two people had gotten injured playing in meaningless games finishing up the season,” Lopez said before the short-handed Nets were blown out by the just-as-depleted New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. “So he just wanted to take sort of a precautionary angle going forward. He said he wanted to sit down, get lunch or dinner, something like that, and talk about what I see going forward, what his plans are, I guess, prepping already.”
It remains to be seen whether those plans include Lopez -- whose name has been discussed in several trades that haven't come to fruition over the course of his eight-year Nets career. Asked whether he’s received any assurances about his future from Marks, Lopez responded: “We both definitely want to be here and see things happen here and help this team grow going forward.”
Fans expressed their displeasure over Marks’ decision to sit Lopez and Young on social media, but it makes perfect sense. The Nets are 21-56, have nothing to play for, and Lopez and Young are two of their best assets -- whether Marks decides to build around them or deal them for young players and/or picks.
Sure, the Nets might finish with the third-worst record, which means more pingpong balls for the Boston Celtics in the upcoming NBA draft lottery, as the Celtics own the pick. But Marks didn’t make that disastrous 2014 trade for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and others. Billy King did. It is what it is.
Lopez, 28, had arguably his best statistical season as a pro, averaging 20.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.7 blocks in 73 games. He shot 51.1 percent from the field and 78.7 percent from the free throw line. More importantly, after signing a three-year, $63.5 million contract over the summer, he stayed healthy.
“I wish we were more successful as a team, obviously,” Lopez said. “I think we could’ve been better. It takes time obviously to figure things out, but I think we could’ve figured things out quicker. And I think our young guys learned a lot this season, and we found a lot of tools we could use going forward, definitely.”