NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot, the team announced. The injury occurred in Friday night’s overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. League sources say Lopez is out for the season.
What it means: This is a devastating blow to a $190 million team that came into the season with high expectations and championship dreams. The Nets (9-17) just lost the seventh-most efficient player in the entire NBA for the rest of the season. Only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love have higher PERs than Lopez. And remember, the Nets don’t have their first-round pick in 2014 because of the Joe Johnson trade. Defensively, the Nets are 6.4 points per 100 possessions better with Lopez on the court (109.1 to 102.7). Add all that up, and, well, yikes.
Poor Brook: Lopez, 25, ends his season averaging a career-high 20.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on a career-high 56.3 percent shooting. He truly was a dominant force on the offensive end -- ranking first in the NBA in points per touch -- with his ability to score inside and shoot standing one-handed jumpers with ease. In his first three seasons, Lopez did not miss a game. In his next three seasons, counting this one? It’ll end up being 134. Lopez previously fractured the same bone in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season and underwent surgery after the 2012-13 season to replace a bent screw in the foot.
When did he get hurt? Perhaps with 4:53 left in the fourth quarter, when he was fouled from behind by Thaddeus Young and went down hard to the floor. Lopez appeared to be grimacing as he waited to shoot the ensuing free throws. He remained in the game, though. You have to wonder whether Lopez will be able to return to being the dominant player he once was. But you can’t question his heart, trying to gut it out on a broken foot.
Now what? The Nets somehow now have to replace his production -- which is basically impossible -- likely with a combination of Kevin Garnett, Andray Blatche and Andrei Kirilenko, who is hopeful to return next week. Kirilenko has missed 22 games to back spasms. The onus will be on Deron Williams, Johnson and Paul Pierce even further to step up their games and get the Nets into the playoffs.