The Brooklyn Nets were 9-17 when Brook Lopez went down with a season ending foot injury and finished the year with a 35-21 to finish sixth in the Eastern Conference. The natural conclusion one might draw from that is that the Nets were better off without Lopez or maybe he didn’t fit into Jason Kidd‘s game plan. Nets General Manager Billy King doesn’t think so.
“Missing (Brook Lopez) didn’t allow us to go further (last season)…right now there isn’t a plan to put any restrictions on him,” King said on SiriusXM Monday morning.
The truth is that Lopez was likely the best player on the Nets last season. In 17 games, he averaged 23.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per 36 minutes and dominated the low post. However, nobody on the team was on the same page until at least January and it’s not a coincidence that they struggled without Andrei Kirilenko, who spent most of the first half of the season on the sidelines with a back injury.
It wasn’t until January where Kidd finally got a handle on the roster and, out of desperation, went with a smaller lineup that had Paul Pierce at the four and Shaun Livingston as a starter at the two. The flaw early on was not the effectiveness of Lopez, but rather the expectations that Kevin Garnett and Pierce could carry the team. Once reality set in and Kidd shuffled the roster things started to change.
Right now, the Nets best chance at competing at a high-level next season is Lopez. If he can come back at or near 100 percent and continue to play like an all-star then the Nets might have a shot at doing well in the East. Without him that seems unlikely. After all, Pierce and Livingston are gone and even Nets fans wearing the rosiest of glasses can see Garnett for what he is — old and washed up.
UNEXPECTED MASON: Another part of the season why the Nets did well in the second half last season was because of the defense and athleticism of Mason Plumlee. King admitted that he didn’t expect Plumlee to even spend much time with the Nets last season, but said that he took advantage of the few minutes that he got. King later added that his experience with Team USA will help him even more going into this season.