NBA PM: Lopez Injury Impacts Howard Situation?
The New Jersey Nets have announced that center Brook Lopez has a stress fracture in his right foot.
Lopez, who has played in all 82 games in each of his three seasons, will undergo surgery on Friday to repair his fifth metatarsal.
The Nets are hopeful recovery will take just four to six weeks, although that may be an optimistic projection however given Lopez’s 7’0″, 265-pound frame.
Injuries of this nature, especially involving big men and their feet, can be precarious. Certainly the Nets won’t rush him back. The possibility of Brook’s recovery dragging on for closer to two or three months is substantial.
Lopez should be able to get past this injury without any long-lasting impact on his career. Unfortunately in this lockout-shortened season of just 66 games, if Lopez return stretches to the All-Star Break on February 28th, he’ll have missed 35 games and 53% of the year.
Playing without a true center will be difficult for the Nets, given Lopez was a 20-point scorer last season and the team’s primary inside option.
The Nets have hopes to make a run at a playoff spot. Outside of teams like the Chicago Bulls, Miami HEAT, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks, the Eastern Conference has some softness in the top eight.
The Indiana Pacers have improved over the summer and the Philadelphia 76ers are ample competition. It’s difficult to get a read on teams like the Orlando Magic, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats . . . but now without Lopez, it will be a more difficult journey for the Nets to leapfrog their competition.
Speaking of the Magic, the Lopez injury certainly adds a wrinkle to the Dwight Howard chase.
The Nets believed they had a viable package and near deal with the Magic in recent weeks (with help from the Portland Trail Blazers in a multi-team deal) but Orlando decided to hold out on hope that Dwight will stay with Orlando long-term.
The Magic will have the most money to offer Howard in free agency, with an additional fifth year that no other franchise can give. Sign and trade/extension rules have changed so Dwight will need to choose money or location if the Magic don’t blink first and send him out in trade.
The Dallas Mavericks are making an aggressive push to open up enough cap room to try and entice both Howard and New Jersey’s Deron Williams next summer. If the Mavericks can find a taker for Shawn Marion (perhaps after the current season), the Amnesty Clause (Brendan Haywood) could make the Mavs a true threat in free agency.
The Magic may be willing to tempt fate but if Howard convinces them that he truly will leave money on the table and won’t return under any circumstances, a ploy Dwight has not used to date, perhaps then Orlando will pull the trigger on a deal.
Lopez was a major piece in the deal discussed with New Jersey. The Magic are likely to wait on Howard regardless, which could give Lopez time to fully recover and keep the Nets very much in contention for the league’s top center.
If Lopez does need more like three or four months to recover, not expected but certainly a possibility, Orlando may look out West to the Los Angeles Lakers for a deal built around Andrew Bynum.
At this point, there’s no reason to think the Lopez injury impacts Orlando’s time frame with Howard.
Kobe’s Teammates Expect Him to Play
It was announced on Wednesday by the Lakers that Kobe Bryant had torn his lunotriquetral ligament in his shooting wrist in the team’s preseason games Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
While it remains unclear to Coach Mike Brown just how long Bryant will be out, it would appear surgery is not considered an option at this time.
Bryant chose not to speak to the media on Wednesday about the wrist, which was supported by a soft cast while his team lost their second straight exhibition game to the Clippers.
Kobe could probably use a few weeks off to let it rest but none of his teammates were buying that as an option.
Long-time backcourt mate Derek Fisher was pretty clear on the matter, “He’ll cut his wrist off and play with one before he misses Sunday.”
Andrew Bynum concurred, although Bynum himself said he’ll do his best to stay in shape while sitting out the team’s first five games with suspension (J.J. Barea hit in the NBA Finals).
Bynum had a big night against the Clippers with 26 points and 11 boards in just 31 1/2 minutes.
If the Lakers are without both Bryant for the start of the season, that sees LA opening with a back-to-back-to-back, the team may find itself in an early hole in the standings.
Coach Brown Fascinated by Rookie Goudelock
In the Lakers preseason opener, Coach Brown played rookie Darius Morris for extended minutes (24 overall). Morris (41st pick) had an uneven game but showed some true flashes, especially in the first quarter when he hit a number of difficult shots (11 points on 5-9 shooting).
On Wednesday in the quick preseason finale, Brown gave Andrew Goudelock (46th) a solid 20 minutes on the floor. Goudelock, as per his reputation as a shooter, was not shy about getting attempts up.
He seemed a bit anxious initially, rushing his looks, but gradually began to make a solid impression. He finished the game with nine points on 3-8 shooting but hit 60% from behind the arc.
“There’s just something about that kid that intrigues me,” said Brown. “He’s a mature kid (I guess he’s really not a kid). He played all four years. He’s got some skill. He can handle the basketball. He can shoot the ball. He can play pick and roll. He has a medium game. He’s tough mentally. He’s tough physically – very good defender. For a young guy, he’s very far advanced in my opinion. If he’s with the right guy out on the floor at the right time against the right opponent he can be affective.”
The Lakers are still searching for answers in the backcourt as they transition from the over-30 crowd (Derek Fisher and Steve Blake) to the younger generation (Morris and Goudelock). It will be interesting to see if LA makes moves to solidify the point guard position long term or tries to develop from within.
Perhaps Goudelock can find an Eddie House-like role on the team . . .
“I’m just looking for pieces that fit, guys that can help us win,” continued Brown. “He might be one of those guys. We’ll have to wait and see.”
What was Laker All-Star Pau Gasol’s initial impression on Goudelock?
“He’s not afraid to shoot,” said Gasol. “He’s got a quick trigger.”
Clippers Willing to go Smaller Up Front
As of Wednesday night, the Clippers had yet to sign forward Reggie Evans but barring a failed physical (or some other bizarre turn of events in an offseason that has already had plenty of bizarre turns), expect Evans to be a Clipper well before opening night.
Sources with the Clippers have indicated that initially the team does not intend to sign another big man.
That would give LA just one player on the roster, outside of DeAndre Jordan (6’11″) and Blake Griffin (6’10″), as 6’10″ or taller . . . rookie Trey Thompkins.
“There’s no question we can use some more bulk up front, some more physicality depending on how DJ and Blake are in terms of foul trouble and health,” said Del Negro.
Of course there are very few true NBA centers left in the league. During the regular season that may not be an issue, given that quickness, athleticism and skill can often trump pure size and length.
Where it could hurt the Clippers most is in a playoff series against a team with multiple bigs like the Los Angeles Lakers, but the other LA team has its own share of issues to resolve before the postseason is in the forefront.
“Right now, that’s where we’re at. We’re going to have to deal with. It’s always great to have some leagth back there, no question about it,” said Del Negro. “Most guys that are 6’10′, 6’11″ are pretty valuable and under contract. There are different things involved there. We’re looking at different guys that we feel can help us. Reggie Evans is one of them. He’s not 6’10″ . . . but he’s a rebounder. He’s a tough kid. He can guard some fours, some fives – give us that extra edge defensively – get some rebounds – get us out in the open court.”
That doesn’t mean the Clippers won’t consider a move down the road. They still have their $2.5 million room exception and a $3.8 million trade exception generated in the Chris Paul trade.
“We’re always looking to imrpove the team. If someone comes by the waiver wire or something we can make a move to do, obviously we’re going to look at that,” said Del Negro. “As of right now I’m happy with the team. It’s an issue but something we’ll have to deal with for now.”
Thompkins Makes a Strong Impression
The Los Angeles Clippers were very happy when Georgia forward Trey Thompkins landed in their laps with the 37th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Thompkins was a player the Clippers had as a first-round level talent and one they believed was a great fit for their organization as a stretch floor, capable of playing alongside star forward Blake Griffin in smaller lineup.
In two preseason games, Thompkins has averaged 7.5 points in just 13.5 minutes while shooting 50% from the field and 75% from three (just four attempts). He’s also pulled down a fair share of rebounds (4.5 a game) given limited minutes and sample size.
“[Trey] has really has a nice feel for the game. I’ve been impressed with him,” said Del Negro. “Shoots it well. Has nice shot rotation, nice release point. He’s worked hard. He’s got to get a little stronger, a little bigger and understand things better. He’s very young but his talent and feel for the game has been very impressive.”
Thompkins has already shown a lot of poise and maturity in his approach throughout training camp.
“I pride myself on being able to play the game. I’m not one of the most athletic guys, as everyone knows, so I definitely have to use my mind and try to play one play ahead,” said Thompkins. “Having leaders like Blake, CP, Chauncey [Billups], DJ, everyone on my team is making it so much easier for me to learn. They’re putting a big burden on me and I’m willing to accept it.”
Thompkins is happy to have joined the Clippers as a team on the rise but he says things haven’t changed as drastically as one would think with the additions of Paul and Billups.
“It hasn’t seemed like it’s changed much,” said Thompkins. “We’ve had a scheme that we’ve always wanted to follow and Coach Del Negro has always done a good job of making sure everyone is on the same page. The fact that we got those guys, just made it even better. We had a team that was focused on the same goals of getting better – they just made it a little easier.”
While Del Negro praised Thompkins, he still isn’t certain how much of a role the rookie will play once the season starts, although he acknowledged he could earn some minutes.
“How he’s going to fit in?” asked Del Negro. “It depends as we get going here, not with exhibition games, but the regular season.”
Regardless, Thompkins is happy for the opportunity.
“Whatever role they need me to play, I’m willing to play,” said Thompkins. “The fact that I came to a great situation is a blessing. I’ve got a team of guys who have embraced me, along with Travis [Leslie]. Our coaching staff is great. They work with every day. They push me to be a better player, so I appreciate it.”
The Clippers also selected Thompkins’ college teammate Leslie with the 47th pick but Travis came into camp with a sprained ankle. It’s been a setback for Leslie to miss the preseason but he said he’s been paying close attention every step of the way to try and keep up.
Leslie has the potential to be the best dunker on the team, an area of light-hearted contention between Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Jordan expressed disappointment Wednesday that he hasn’t seen Leslie dunk even once this preseason.
Travis said he’s almost over the injury and nearly ready to join the team in full.
Billups Wasn’t An Option for Lakers
In response to frequent questions on the matter, the Lakers were not able to make a bid on Chauncey Billups off the amnesty waiver wire because they were not under the salary cap. There was, in fact, no legal means for the Lakers to outbid the Clippers.