And then, all of a sudden, Lopez had signed a four-year $61 million contract extension last July, and the Nets were presumed to be out of the Howard sweepstakes.
While nearly everyone was wondering why on Earth general manager Billy King bought into Lopez when he likely could’ve landed the hands-down best center in the game, the Nets organization maintained their firm belief that Lopez could become one of the league’s dominant big men.
Having spent most of the regular season working himself back into shape from major back surgery, as well as playing alongside one of the greatest scorers of all-time in Kobe Bryant, Howard’s regular season was a struggle to say the least. But even after Bryant was unable to play for the Los Angeles Lakers in their first round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs after tearing his Achilles tendon, the better fit Howard still only managed to average 17 points per game as the best offensive weapon on the floor.
Lopez, however, has been a completely different story. On a team where he plays with multiple time All Stars in guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, the first-time All Star himself has led Brooklyn in scoring throughout their first round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls with 22.5 points per contest.
Now, here we are in May, and the Nets look like geniuses.
It may only be his first rodeo when it comes to the postseason, but Lopez’s improved offensive skillset, which made him the highest scoring center in the league this year, has proven why the Nets weren’t afraid to hold onto him.