Brook Lopez was supposed to be a huge part of the Brooklyn Nets’ success this season. And the way the season started, that proved to be true. Before suffering from another season-ending foot injury, Lopez was averaging 20 points and six rebounds per game for the Nets. And even though his team wasn’t exactly lighting up the win column, he was still a huge part of everything the Nets did – even if most of it was bad.
When Lopez officially played his last game for the Nets this season (on Dec 20), Brooklyn was laboring a 9-17 record – a disappointment no matter how you look at it. If anything that would get worse, especially without Lopez in the lineup. You’d think. That was easily the initial reaction.
However, ironically, the opposite has happened. Instead of the Nets plunging into the deep end, they’ve done more than enough to stay afloat.
And per the Nets coach Jason Kidd, it has at least a little something to do with the change of personnel that they went through when Lopez went out.
I think the injury is something that changed the whole landscape of who we were trying to be. When you look at with Brook in, we were trying to play through Brook, play inside-out. But now with Brook out, we went with what you guys call a small lineup, even though Joe Johnson is just as big as anyone and he’s our post player — or Deron (Williams) or Shaun (Livingston). So we just kind of changed the face of who we play inside and now we’ve given guys who weren’t getting a lot of attempts at the 3. That’s probably the thing that has changed with the Nets is that we shuffled different guys and with Paul (Pierce) playing the stretch (power forward), we kind of found our identity at that point.
Prior to Lopez’s injury, the Nets had a 102.8 offensive rating, a 106.4 defensive rating and a minus-3.6 net rating – all those numbers were close to the bottom of the league.
After the Lopez injury, the Nets have gone 31-16, posted a 105.3 offensive rating, a 102.7 defensive rating and a net rating of 2.6. Positive two point six.
The drastic change is pretty impressive. The numbers from before and after are pretty much reverse mirror images of each other. I’m sure there are other contributing factors than just the exit of Lopez – like health and cohesiveness. However, it was the Lopez injury that forced Kidd to make a change and, in the process, found the team’s identity. You have to give him that
Kidd has come a long way from spilling his drink on the floor, to firing his assistant coach. He’s actually done a pretty good job of recovering after a horrible start to his coaching career, even though if it may have taken a blessing in disguise to wake him up a little.