Nets Find Lopez’s Replacement in Okur
The New Jersey Nets wasted little time in replacing center Brook Lopez, who fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot during Thursday’s preseason loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. General manager Billy King sent a 2015 second-round pick to the Utah Jazz in exchange for veteran center Mehmet Okur.
Okur will likely start in place of Lopez, who has yet to miss a regular season game in his first three NBA seasons. The 32-year-old Okur obviously previously played with point guard Deron Williams in Utah, and he joins shooting guard Anthony Morrow and forward Shawne Williams as the team’s triumvirate of 3-point marksmen. Okur has hit 37.7% of his attempts from beyond the arc in his career while scoring 13.7 ppg and grabbing 7.1 RPG.
“Mehmet will give us added scoring and size,” said King. “His ability to shoot the three will help space the floor.”
The downside with Okur is his conditioning and overall health. Okur played in only 13 games last season after suffering a ruptured Achilles’ tendon in 2010. His weight has also fluctuated from time to time.
Okur had his best season during Williams’ rookie season, averaging 18 ppg and 9.1 rpg. After the trade, Williams took to his Twitter account to celebrate: “glad to be playing with my boy Memo again!!!!”
It’s not known how long Lopez will be out, but similar injuries have typically taken around 10 weeks to heal properly.
“I look at it as another opportunity,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said after revealing Lopez’s injury, but before the trade was finalized. “We’re definitely disappointed. I had a long talk with Brook last night. He is not in great spirits but we tried to lift his spirits to let him know that, hey, this is a little bit of a setback but he could definitely have a big time comeback. Hopefully, once we get through with the surgery and get back to rehabbing and he can heal up and we can get him back at some point this season.”
Okur will make $10.8 million this season, which is the final year of his contract. That means the team can still go after Dwight Howard in free agency next year.