Nets prepare to move on without Brook Lopez

Nets' Brook Lopez, center, goes up for a Nets' Brook Lopez, center, goes up for a shot against Philadelphia 76ers' Thaddeus Young, left, and Spencer Hawes during the first half. (Dec. 20, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - In between a few pauses, as he attempted to describe his emotions when he learned that Brook Lopez had been lost for the season with a fractured right foot, Joe Johnson kept shaking his head in disbelief.

"I was devastated, man. It's almost like we can't catch a break," he said Sunday. "It's like it's always something. Every day, every other day, somebody goes down, or one man comes back, somebody goes down. That's how it's been throughout the whole season. It's been tough. It's been tough because it's hard to kind of gain any chemistry when guys are in and out.

"But I just hate it for the big fella, because I know he worked so hard to try to come back and prepare himself for this season. And then coming off an All-Star season, I know he wanted to get back to that. So it's tough, man, to see him have to sit out the rest of the season like that."

Lopez's injury occurred when he got tangled up with Thaddeus Young in the fourth quarter of the Nets' overtime loss to the 76ers on Friday. But the 7-footer stayed in the game and played the final 9:53, only to have a postgame X-ray reveal the damage.

This is the third injury to the same area of that foot in the past three years. General manager Billy King confirmed that Lopez is done for the season, in part because the Nets want to think long-term with him.

Some projections for an injury of this nature suggest a recovery time of roughly two months, but the Nets are focused on making sure the man to whom they gave a four-year, $60-million deal in 2012 gets as healthy as possible. They're opting to take the cautious approach with their leading scorer (20.7 points per game).

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"It's been unfortunate, but the one thing I know about Brook is he'll do everything he can to get back," said King, who added that Lopez will be examined today by the team's medical director, Dr. Riley Williams III. "We're talking to a lot of different doctors, getting opinions to make sure that when we do it this time, maybe it's fixable so that it won't happen again."

Nets coach Jason Kidd wouldn't reveal any lineup changes, saying he'll make the decision sometime before the Nets (9-17) host the Pacers (22-5) Monday night. The Nets likely will need to find their solution internally, given their luxury-tax situation, but King continues to talk with other teams.

"When you get an injury like this, everybody calls you," he said. "Every agent that has a big guy on the sideline calls and they offer their services. But we had been in discussions with a lot of teams up to this point. There's no imminent move; we're not looking to make any imminent move, trade-wise. We've got 14 other guys that can step up, but we'll continue to discuss possibilities if we can make our team better."

This was a team constructed with no more than a two-year window, so King understands the Nets are walking a fine line as they assess life without Lopez.

"If there's a deal out there that we feel is going to make us a better team, we'll do it, regardless of tax or the future," King said. "But we're not going to panic and do a move just to make a move because we feel we have to. I still believe in this group. Brook's a big part of it, but we do have other guys. That's why we have depth."

King said assistant general manager Bobby Marks already is drawing up the paperwork so the Nets can file for the disabled player exception. That exception, if granted by the league, allows a team to replace a player who suffers a season-ending injury with one player making up to half of the injured player's current salary, with the maximum being the league's average player salary.

It's yet another nasty scar on what's been an injury-ravaged season for the Nets, one that must go on without one of their main weapons, a player who they thought gave them a significant advantage against certain teams.

"I felt bad for Brook because I know how hard he worked this summer in getting back," Paul Pierce said. "We spent some time in here in preseason and I know what he's been through the last couple of years. That's been documented on his injuries, on his foot. So it has to be frustrating for him every year to know that there's something wrong and he has a problem with the foot. It's some adversity he has to deal with. We all deal with it.

"We all deal with certain types of adversity, and you see what type of player he is and how he responds to it. I think he's going to work hard in trying to get back after he heals and try back at it next year."

Meanwhile, the Nets will have to make do, hoping that the potential returns of Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry -- who both practiced Sunday for the first time in weeks -- will help stabilize this wild ride.

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The Nets are only one-third of the way through the season "and we know that Brook, he's not coming back for the rest of the season," Johnson said. "So that's the toughest blow. That's the toughest blow throughout the whole year. And now each and every individual on this team has to step up and do something to fill that big void that is definitely going to be missed."

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