Brook Lopez won’t play on Tuesday night, as the Brooklyn Nets center needs a day of rest. He’s earned it.
The party line, behind Lopez’s move to take the night off against the fearsome Toronto Raptors, is that the 7-footer needs to mind his minutes. A pair of frightening right foot fractures cost the big man most of the 2011-12 and 2013-14 seasons, and though the Nets have done well to limit the center to just 28.8 minutes a contest in 2016-17, there’s no point in trotting his career out to take a pounding in the hopes that the 7-19 Nets can topple the three-time defending Atlantic Division champions.
Of course, we know that there’s a real reason for why a wearied Brook Lopez will take a blow on Tuesday night. The guy has been a Net longer than anyone else in pro basketball history, and that’s got to take a toll on a man.
Lopez, and the most of us, was not aware that he had recently become the longest-tenured Net in history – topping Buck Williams (the team’s all-time leader in games played, at 635), who stayed with the team from 1981 through a deal that sent him to Portland in 1989. It took Fred Kerber, who has been forced to watch more Nets games than perhaps anyone else on earth, to inform him of this … pleasant (?) quirk:
“Ever? Really? That’s surprising. I knew I was up there but I figured there must have been some Net who was here at least 10 years,” Lopez said Thursday. “That’s crazy.”
If crazy keeps you from crying, sure!
Lopez was drafted by the then-New Jersey Nets back in 2008, he’s played in 511 regular season games with the team heading into Tuesday night’s break in action. Brook has made the playoffs twice with the club, in 2013 and 2015, he was an All-Star in 2013 and is currently averaging a remarkable 20.3 points and 1.8 blocks in 28.8 minutes alongside a less-than-stellar 5.8 rebounds.
He’s also had to stay a Net – the East’s most woebegone all-time team by far – the entire time.
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The Nets, for the next couple of years at least (the rebuilding team won’t have its own first-round draft pick to work with until 2019), will battle the Los Angeles Clippers for the title of the NBA’s dreariest franchise. The Nets did make the NBA Finals in the Eastern Conference’s absolute lowest ebb in 2002 and 2003, representing themselves as the NBA’s second-best team in those two years despite the fact that they were likely the league’s sixth or seventh-best club in the face of a wonderfully-deep Western Conference in those seasons.
It’s those Finals appearances that have them just barely topping the Clippers overall, who have made the playoffs in every year since 2012 and have acted like legitimate title contenders on paper for the last few seasons. The Nets have made the playoffs in 17 other seasons since joining the NBA in 1976, but could only count themselves amongst the best in the NBA a pair of times. And even that (while looking up to the Spurs, Kings, Mavericks, Timberwolves and possibly the Trail Blazers) was pushing it.
The pre-NBA run the Nets enjoyed should help, but in the end the team’s ABA brilliance paid a heavier toll than the gains enjoyed with the red, white and blue ball.
The former New York Nets were a dominant squad under coach Kevin Loughery, with Julius Erving playing out of this world ball alongside Super John Williamson and, at times, Billy Paultz and Larry Kenon. The ABA Nets made the Finals three times (once with Rick Barry) and won two titles with Dr. J while playing in Long Island, before the price to enter the NBA (essentially giving up both the city of New York and Julius Erving in one move so as to mollify the New York Knicks’ territorial fandom fears) drove the team to obscurity in New Jersey.
Territorial pissings weren’t in the cards a decade ago when the team openly courted Brooklyn before moving back into NYC in 2012 after years spent in East Rutherford and Newark, NJ.
The burly new arena and Brooklyn backing wasn’t enough to counter the destruct-o moves of owner Mikhail Prokhorov and former general manager Billy King, though, and it is why someone like Brook Lopez is on the ninth head coach of his NBA career. Alongside an ungodly amount of teammates, including helpers like Tony Battie, Joe Smith, Andray Blatche, Jerry Stackhouse, and DeShawn Stevenson.
It’s nearly needless to say that Brook Lopez has been through quite a bit, and he hasn’t even turned 30 yet. Or 29, even.
Brook’s a likeable fella with big game, which is why he’s been the subject of trade rumors since, oh, about his third season in the NBA. That chatter has continued over until this season (“haven’t heard anything in like a whole day and a half,” Lopez told Kerber) and won’t stop until Lopez is perched elsewhere. His $21.1 million salary is moveable, and will only be on the books for over $22.2 million next season.
Some 20 points in tiny minutes, from a center, is something to behold. What’s worth giving pause to is the idea that, even at a fifth of your salary cap and for fewer than two-thirds a game, Brook Lopez is worth working around in a league that is straying farther and farther away from strictly post-up players – which, in his defense, Lopez is much more than.
Those thoughts are best left for another day, though, should Brook finally become anything else but a full-fledged Net. It will be then and only then that we’ll say goodbye to Mr. Active Net his’self: Brook Lopez.
Roll over Eric Money, tell Jamie Feick the news.
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