The New Jersey Nets will be without center and leading scorer Brook Lopez for a couple of months because of a broken right foot.
Lopez, who did not miss a game in his first three seasons, was injured during an exhibition game against the Knicks on Wednesday and he will have surgery Friday.
The injury is a stress fracture to the slow-healing fifth metatarsal, the same kind of injury that New York Giants first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara suffered on Aug. 6 in training camp. He did not play in a game until Nov. 20.
”I had a long talk with Brook last night,” coach Avery Johnson said. ”He is not in great spirits but we tried to lift his spirits to let him know that, hey, this is a little bit of a setback but he could definitely have a big-time comeback. Hopefully, once we get through with the surgery and get back to rehabbing and he can heal up and we can get him back at some point this season.”
Lopez, who averaged 20.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists last season as the Nets posted a 24-58 record, played in the second half with the injury.
To help fill the void, the Nets acquired Mehmet Okur from the Utah Jazz on Thursday for a second-round draft pick.
”Mehmet will give us added scoring and size,” Nets general manager Billy King said in a statement. ”His ability to shoot the 3 will help space the floor.”
The Nets would not say how long Lopez will be sidelined but a medical expert said it would be from six to 12 weeks, but it has the potential of being longer, depending on the degree of the stress fracture.
Dr. Victor Khabie, the chief of the department of surgery and sports medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., told The Associated Press the problem with injuries to the fifth metatarsal is that the blood supply to that area is poor, which prevents doctors from simply putting the foot in a cast.
”For that reason and especially with an athlete you want to get back as soon as possible, we end up doing surgery, which is inserting a metal screw intro the bone to compress the bone together,” Khabie said. ”The act of inserting the screw also stimulates blood flow to the area.”
Khabie said that Lopez’s size may increase his recovery time.
”Biomechanics are such that with a bigger guy, the more pressure you put on it, the bone has to be more solid,” Khabie said. ”It may not make a difference in the healing, but it needs to be more fully healed before you let a 7-footer start jumping up and down on it.”
While he has not seen Lopez’s X-rays, Khabie felt 12 weeks would be his best guess at a recovery.
”I think that would be early,” he added. ”If I saw him as a patient, I would say: `Listen, hopefully, we’ll get you back in three months.’ I would say that would be a very optimistic type of call. This could be season-ending, potentially, seeing how short the (NBA) season is.”
The lockout-shortened season opens this weekend and the regular season concludes at the end of April. The trade deadline is mid-March, which is important to note.
The injury could hurt the Nets’ chances of making a deal for Orlando All-Star center Dwight Howard. The Nets and Magic had some talks about a deal after the lockout ended and 23-year-old Lopez was said to be part of the package the Nets offered.