Nets Struggle Mightily without Lopez

Updated: December 13, 2012

Team Can’t Win Without its Star Center

BROOKLYN, NY (BASN) – This summer was supposed to be the summer of Dwight Howard. He as the Orlando Magic center was literally trying to muscle his way into the heart of Brooklyn to play for the Nets. He had lusted to play with Deron Williams to form a one-two punch at the point and pivot that would rival what has been down in San Antonio with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.

The power play didn’t work and the Nets were forced to revert back to their own center who was a free agent, Brook Lopez. It was said that the Nets were willing to offer the Magic a combination of Lopez, multiple 1st round draft picks, Kris Humphries or MarShon Brooks. The Magic didn’t bite and went another direction getting Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, rookie Moe Harkless and others. Folks around the game thought the Nets’ deal was far superior to what the Magic ended up getting.

But, perhaps the Magic didn’t trust Lopez and his health situation. Sure, Howard didn’t finish out the season himself playing only 22 games out of the Lockout shortened 66 games schedule to undergo major back surgery. Lopez however played only 5 games before going down with a severe foot injury. He was averaging 19.2 points per game at the time.

Lopez and his talent is unquestioned. And you can make a point that his overall center play is not that far off or better (offensively) than Howard’s. If you ask Shaquille O’Neal (who would never be mistaken for the president of the Howard fan club), Lopez plays the center position better than Howard does. “Dwight is a pick and roll center, not a back to the basket center like Lopez.” Lopez indeed can score buckets down low with the best of them.

That element is certainly missing as the Nets (11-9) are 1-5 without Lopez in their lineup (101.8 points per game allowed on 49.9 percent shooting). They blew not one, but two double-digit leads in their latest loss. The Nets got off to a great start Tuesday against the New York Knicks night because they attacked the paint instead of setting for 3-point shots (they went 4-for-18 from beyond the arc). Unfortunately, their 3-point defense let them down and they couldn’t stop Carmelo Anthony who torched them for an opponent season-high 45 points.

Luckily for the Nets, the Raptors (4-18) aren’t nearly as good as the Eastern Conference leading Knicks. A great note from STATS LLC: The Nets have led by at least nine points in four games during their current malaise. It’s time to actually hold on to one and win the game.

The Nets make their first trip to Madison Square Garden for round 3 of the Battle of the Boroughs on December 16th. It should be interesting if Lopez is ready and available to play.

Jerald L. Hoover

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