Bad news in Brooklyn, Brook Lopez hurt
The expectation and hype levels surrounding the Brooklyn Nets franchise entering the 2014-15 campaign compared to last season is completely different. Last season, the Nets were expected to be title contenders with a total payroll looming near $200 million after including in luxury tax penalties. This season Brooklyn has been flying under the radar with not many expectations above just earning a lower seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Day and night.
Gone are head coach Jason Kidd, future Hall of Fame Paul Pierce and key contributing guard Shaun Livingston. Lionel Hollins is now calling the shots from the sideline in Brooklyn and while the team didn’t make a splash in free agency the return of former All-Star center Brook Lopez figured to alleviate some of the sting from the departures this past summer.
Lopez played just 17 games for the Nets last season due to surgeries to repair to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal and a first metatarsal osteotomy in his right foot back in January. In fact, Lopez has missed over 130 games the past three seasons nursing a variety of ailments. To say Lopez’s health and ability to consistently remain in the starting lineup is an understatement.
Lopez reported to camp healthy in September but on Wednesday hurt his right foot in a preseason game versus the Sacramento Kings.
While the injury is being classified as a “mild” foot sprain, it is troubling to note the injury occurred to his surgically repaired right foot. But for now, the Nets are downplaying the severity.
“X-ray and CT scan studies done Thursday in New York reveal no fractures or bone injuries,” Nets medical director Dr. Riley Williams II said in a statement. “Brook has been diagnosed with a mild midfoot sprain and is likely to be out for approximately 10-14 days.”
Lopez averaged 18 points and 5.6 rebounds on and 54 percent shooting during the Nets’ first three preseason contests. Lopez showed little effects of the surgeries from earlier in the year while averaging 23 minutes per game in preseason action.
When healthy, Lopez is one of the most difficult centers to guard in the league. However, Lopez has been battling ailments in his lower extremities for years. In March, Lopez had surgery to repair to repair a torn tendon and strengthen lateral ligaments in his left ankle. Back in 2011, Lopez suffered a fracture to the same fifth metatarsal.
The Nets currently have $93 million in guaranteed salaries on the books. The team will enter next summer with just $55 million in guaranteed deals. Lopez has a player option worth $16.7 million for the 2015-16 campaign and could opt to test the free agency market to secure a more lucrative long term deal.
Do we need to lower expectations for Lance Stephenson in Charlotte?
The Charlotte Hornets franchise are on the rise. Last summer, the team started to pick up momentum among its fan base by luring a big name in free agency in Al Jefferson and hiring a head coach in Steve Clifford who has been a perfect fit. The team earned a playoff berth and the expectations are starting to rise in the Queen City.
Not resting on their laurels, the Hornets were aggressive in free agency, ultimately landing talented guard Lance Stephenson on a cap friendly three-year $27 million deal.
The widely held belief was that Stephenson would immediately become one of the Hornets’ top players alongside Jefferson and emerging point guard Kemba Walker. The reality is there may be a longer adjustment period than most originally thought before Stephenson reaches that level in the pecking order with the Hornets.
Clifford recently stated it may be time to hold off on some of the higher expectations people have for Stephenson’s impact in the short term.
“I think people are going to have to be patient with him,” Clifford told the Charlotte Observer. “You can see his talent and his ability and he wants to do well … He’s a good, good player. But he averaged 13 [points] a game last year. This isn’t a guy who for eight years scored 22 a night.”
According to the report, Stephenson will in all likelihood be a fixture in Charlotte’s starting lineup but for the meantime his defensive talents, playmaking ability and energy are the attributes the Hornets are expecting right out of the gate. Offensively, the team is preaching a measure of patience as the talented guard gets fully acclimated to his new surroundings.
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