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It’s easy sportswriter-ese to point to one play as symbolic of a season that can last for 82 games, five and a half months of regular season play, and one full month of training camp plus the possible postseason.
This play, though. You’ve got to see this play.
This play is definitely symbolic of the shambolic Brooklyn Nets’ season. From late in the third quarter of the team’s eventual loss to the rebuilding Boston Celtics:
That’s Brook Lopez, following an errant pass from Joe Johnson that Lopez (and, presumably, other Nets) expected to roll out of bounds, failing to go after the loose ball in the seconds before Celtic Jae Crowder chased the rock down. Crowder eventually drew a foul, handing the Celtics two extra points as they worked into the fourth quarter with a 69-62 advantage. Brooklyn, who boasted a 30-19 lead early in the second quarter, went on to lose 89-81.
The loss dropped to 16-19. And once everyone logged in … the outrage!
This is easily one of the most disappointing performances of the season. No excuse for the Nets not to win this game.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 8, 2015
“Of course (it’s frustrating),” coach Lionel Hollins said. “I told him he was being lazy.”
“It hurts to say (we were outhustled),” Mason Plumlee said. “But that’s what happened.”
In this play, technically, yes. The Nets and most explicitly a loping Lopez were outhustled and lazy. There is no guarantee that someone with Lopez’s foot speed (and we’re not trying to be cruel here) could catch up to that ball, but he certainly has to try.
“I definitely disappointed myself,” Lopez said. “The effort was poor out there, and I let my teammates down.”
Had Lopez made contact with the ball the Nets would have immediately been whistled with a backcourt violation, handing the ball directly to the Celtics for an out of bounds play. This is an outcome that is still far preferable to Crowder catching up with the ball right next to the Brooklyn goal. It’s important to understand Brook’s mindset, though, as he sees the whiffed pass blow by him – the 7-footer has undergone a series of surgeries in his career and has dealt with a litany of stress fractures to his feet.
Not to sound outlandish, but the next literal misstep could be his last as an NBA player. There’s no way he’s going to be able to forget this while submitting to the basketball orthodoxy that screams at him to chase down every loose ball, even if it still only results in giving the opponent the possession.
What’s most important is figuring out just where Lopez and the Nets go from here. Sad to say, but the more often Brook Lopez plays, the more he looks like a man ill-suited for the modern NBA.
We should submit to the idea that every NBA player has a perfect team made for them. That every potential starter has a lineup to join that could combat his mitigating factors and allow his strengths to shine. One dimensional players as disparate as Nate Robinson, Mark Eaton, Steve Kerr and even Eddy Curry have all found roles on playoff teams doing one thing and doing it well. Lopez, surrounded by spacing, could work as a score-first NBA big man.
The problem here is that we haven’t identified that team, as yet, and Lopez’s contract is a tricky one. Matching the $15.7 million he makes this year with salaries sent back to Brooklyn (salaries the Nets may not want) will be tough. He has a player option for $16.7 million that would seem a cinch to expect that Brook would pick up, but with his injury history he may chose to opt-out and secure a long term deal even in the future face of an expanding cap that will set in under the league’s new television deal.
There’s also the idea that the Nets, currently still a likely playoff team, could still ride this out. Lopez is coming off the bench in an uneasy arrangement behind the aging Kevin Garnett and excitable Mason Plumlee, but he’s still averaging nearly 15 points and six rebounds a game in just 26 minutes a contest. Wednesday’s gaffe and 2-7 shooting performance was embarrassing, but coach Lionel Hollins has been pretty quick on his feet and aware of Lopez and Deron Williams’ (who is out indefinitely with a fractured rib) limitations at this point in their careers.
This was rough to watch, though. And yeah, I’m a sportswriter, so I’m required to say it – it was symbolic of the Brooklyn Nets’ season.
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