The second way in which this hurts the Nets is that it greatly diminishes their chances of making the playoffs this season. When he bought the team last year Mikhail Prokhorov promised the playoffs within one season and a championship within five, a pitch the team is working hard to sell Deron Williams on. Williams knows that the team he has currently is not enough to win a championship with, not even close. But at least the Nets were making moves in the right direction. This injury is a major step back.
Lopez is clearly the team’s second-best player, and benefitted enormously from playing with Williams at the end of last season. Up until this point, Lopez had never missed a game in his career, but now he will likely miss at least a month and a half of the season. Williams’ options for players to dish to have diminished, just like the team’s playoff chances. Lopez was expected to help keep the Nets afloat and Williams content until they could pawn him off for a bigger prize at some point this year. Now his position is being manned by Johan Petro, Shelden Williams, and the just-acquired Mehmet Okur. Okur has proven he can score and stretch the floor with his shooting ability, but he has had trouble staying healthy and doesn’t have the versatility of Lopez. With Lopez now gone, guys like MarShon Brooks, Anthony Morrow and Damion James will all be expected to score more than they would have otherwise and their ability to create their own shots will be paramount to the team’s success.
The third and most important way in which this injury impacts the team is in their ability to keep Deron Williams. The goal was continual improvement until the Nets found a superstar to place alongside of him. Now the Nets will likely struggle and they don’t have the pieces to make a trade that will change the landscape of the franchise. If the Nets lose a lot early on, and they very well might, Williams will likely becoming discontented and the ticking time bomb until free agency will tick ever louder. The only thing the Nets will be able to realistically do is find stopgap post players (like Okur) who can prevent the team from going into a freefall and hope Williams realizes they were dealt a bad deck of cards.
However, if Lopez’s recovery is slower than expected, the Nets lose, and another team gets Dwight, that trifecta of events could lead to the one thing the organization and fans fear the most: Williams walking out, leaving the franchise in a state of disarray that will take a long time for them to overcome.
What’s the worst part of this injury for the Nets? Ruining this season or temporarily taking away their trading opportunities?
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