The Eastern Conference in the NBA is always a shake-up. Year after year, two teams that remain at the top of the conference, 11 other teams battle it out for six remaining playoff spots, and those last two teams fight for the number one draft pick.
The Brooklyn Nets have been one of those 11 teams fighting to make moves in the playoffs. With such a promising roster, since becoming the Brooklyn Nets they have been in the playoffs twice losing in 2013 in the first round and in 2014 in the second round.
The biggest reason behind Brooklyn’s mediocrity is Brook Lopez’s injury bug.
From 2011-2014, Brook Lopez has played just 96 games. In those 96 games he averaged 19.8 points, 1.5 blocks and 5.5 rebounds per game. I am going to go out on a limb and say it is safe to assume Brook Lopez’s impact brings the Nets from a mediocre team to a legitimate Eastern Conference contender.
Monday night those who watched the Nets take on the Thunder were reminded just how important Brook Lopez is to the Nets’ success.
It took a little bit for Lopez to get started. He missed his first three shots and also picked up two fouls in about three minutes. Then, late in the first half, Lopez received that magical “click” where everything just came together. That “click” came off of a nice feed from Kevin Garnett where Lopez finished at the rim with authority.
Lopez finished his opening night with a line of 18 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes of action. The underlying part of Lopez’s game is his defense. Many people forget, though the 7-footer may not be as mobile as smaller guys, he is always in the right position to either block or alter an offensive player’s shot.
The biggest skepticism of Lopez remains his durability. A big man with foot issues is never one to be trusted to stay healthy (see Yao Ming).
In his first game back, I thought Brook would look nimble, favoring his foot in fear he might hurt it again. I thought wrong.
Lopez briefly silenced the skeptics in his debut by looking explosive. He normally is not the most mobile big man, but Monday night Lopez was moving around the paint on defense and was able to showcase some fancy footwork down in the post.
Along with the dunk above, he flew in for another slam, and told Lance Thomas to bring his weak stuff back to Oklahoma.
Though the Nets rely on old talent in Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez can provide them with a young piece to build around (given he stays healthy). The Nets desperately need to push further in the playoffs to attract quality free agents. The only way the Nets can make it out of the second round and make some noise in the playoffs is if Brook Lopez stays healthy.
Here are the rest of the highlights from last night’s game between the Nets and the Thunder. Be sure to follow Brook Lopez and the Nets as they take on the young, fun Timberwolves Wednesday night.