With the announcement Saturday that Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez is expected miss the remainder of the season with a broken right foot, the Nets might as well just kiss their championship hopes goodbye.
Although slim, they weren’t invisible by any means.
Not when they defeated the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in front of the whole country early on.
Not when they recently pummeled the Western Conference powerhouse that is the Los Angeles Clippers.
The embarrassing blowouts had finally been brought to a halt. The pieces were finally making their way back.
But the loss of Lopez automatically renders each of these positives null and void moving forward. Because the truth is, this 25-year-old was the Nets’ heart and soul.
He was the one manning the middle and creating pure havoc with the combination of a nearly 300-pound frame and a consistent jumpshot that extended almost as far as the three-point line.
He was the one who showed that he could be the most dominant center in the league, going back to last season.
He was the one who made it clear that if there was any incredibly talented player on the Nets, it was Deron Williams. But he made it an interesting debate.
The only two things that had the capability of slowing him down were himself and injury. And once again, injury got the best of him.
Don’t make any mistake about it, however. Brooklyn isn’t going to pack it in and end up with a losing record because Lopez is done. If you haven’t noticed, all the talent in the NBA is out West and Brooklyn is about as East as it gets.
The Nets will have to adjust without a main component once again, but they’ll learn how to win without him with Williams, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and a supporting cast that continues to improve. The playoffs will still be there.
And as horrendous as the East has been this year, just finishing a handful of games over .500 could actually land them the third seed somehow.
There will be no noise made if they meet Miami or Indiana, though. Common sense dictates that those squads are too deep to get past with one of your best players in a cast.
Which means that Lopez will take any championship aspirations the Nets still had to the operating table with him.