The Nets have a gaping 7-foot hole to plug up.
In the latest punch to the solar plexus in a season chock full of them, the Nets announced Saturday that Brook Lopez broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in their 121-120 overtime loss to the 76ers at Wachovia Center on Friday night.
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Although the Nets said they will issue further updates after consulting with team physicians, Lopez likely is done for the season, according to a source. It's another tough blow for Lopez, who suffered the same injury in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season and is facing his fourth serious foot injury in the last three years.
Lopez had been averaging 20.7 points per game, and losing their leading scorer will have ripple effects for the Nets. Coach Jason Kidd will have to decide whether to move Kevin Garnett to center and increase the 37-year-old's minutes, and he'll have to figure out whom he wants to put in the starting lineup in place of Lopez.
Lopez appeared to injure himself late in the fourth quarter against the 76ers, but he never came out of the game. He played the final 9:53 -- including overtime -- and didn't show much of a limp.
With 4:53 left in the fourth and Philadelphia leading 101-99, Lopez was fouled by Evan Turner on a layup. As he tried to gather himself, Lopez got tangled up with Thaddeus Young and both crashed to the floor, with Young falling hard on top of Lopez's legs.
Lopez winced, quickly grabbed his foot and rubbed the area near his big toe.
"I'm not even sure what happened," Young told the Philadelphia Inquirer Saturday. "I just know we got tangled up and I helped him up. Brook is actually a good friend of mine. We've been knowing each other since the 10th grade.
"It was just one of those things. We were both trying to take a hard foul. I think Evan swiped at him. And I was kind of like in midair as he was coming down."
Probably the last thing Lopez wanted to do was take a seat after all the foot injuries he's dealt with.
This season alone, he already had missed nine games in two separate stints while battling a sprained left ankle. His troublesome feet have limited him to 96 regular-season contests in the past three seasons. That after showing some durability in his initial three seasons, playing all 82 games in each.
Saturday's sobering news comes only six months after Lopez's surgical procedure in June, when he had a bent screw in his right foot replaced after a problem was detected in a season-exit physical. At the time, the Nets said it was proactive, and general manager Billy King wasn't overly worried about Lopez's long-term health.
"For me, I don't have a concern level, because it wasn't something that he had pain with," King said in June. "It wasn't like it prevented him from playing."
Lopez twice fractured his right foot in 2011-12, first injuring his fifth metatarsal bone in December and re-fracturing it after returning and playing in five games. He also had foot issues during the Nets' first season in Brooklyn, getting diagnosed with a mild sprain in his right foot and missing seven games early in the season.
Lopez is in the second season of a four-year, $60-million deal.
With the Nets already staring at a record luxury-tax bill of roughly $82 million, and given that they don't have many draft picks after surrendering three first-rounders in the trade for Garnett and Paul Pierce, their solution probably is going to have to come internally.
Lopez has not shown consistent improvement in his rebounding and defense, but he had been the Nets' main offensive mismatch. They could throw the ball to him in the post and let him operate, an option that many teams simply don't have.
Now the Nets don't have it, either.