NBA: Lopez out 6-8 weeks
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — With the prospect of a trade for Dwight Howard fading and the season opener less than a week away, New Jersey Nets coach Avery Johnson was getting a feel for his team.
That all changed Thursday when center Brook Lopez broke his right foot, an injury that left Johnson shaking his head and considering his options.
Lopez, the Nets’ leading scorer, had surgery Friday for a nondisplaced fracture. He was hurt in a preseason game against the Knicks on Wednesday and will be sidelined at least six weeks and probably more.
In the meantime, general manager Billy King acquired former All-Star center Mehmet Okur from Utah for a second-round draft pick, signed free agent guard DeShawn Stevenson and waived forward Ime Udoka.
With the additions of Okur and Stevenson, the Nets have hit the salary cap, so their revamped team is set.
It has one star, point guard Deron Williams, and a lot of new faces — Okur, Stevenson, free agent forwards Shawne Williams and Sheldon Williams, rookies Marshon Brooks and forward Jordan Williams and holdovers Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, Damion James and Kris Humphries.
“Every day is a new day I tell our players,” Johnson said Friday. “When you get up in the morning you think about being a difference maker. You think about positive energy. Everybody is undefeated now.”
The Nets (24-58) probably aren’t going to stay that way long. They open on Monday at Washington and play 10 of their first 14 games on the road. The home opener is Tuesday against Atlanta.
“There is no surrender in how we react as coaches, how we approach practice,” Johnson said. “It’s not necessarily the situation we diagrammed going in, so we adjust. So if plan A doesn’t work, you have to go to plan B and C and that’s what we are doing.”
The big question is Okur, who is to practice with the team Saturday.
“We needed another guy to fill in, but he’s just not filling in,” Johnson said. “He’s a veteran player. He’s had a solid career so far. He knows how to play and how to pass. He’s still shooting the ball pretty good.”
Okur played in 13 games last season while recovering from Achilles and back injuries. The 32-year-old Turk has averaged 13.7 points and 7.1 rebounds in 617 career games with Detroit and Utah.
Deron Williams played with Okur in Utah, and the two spoke Thursday.
“He was shocked a little bit at first, probably my reaction, but he’s warming up to it and excited coming over, excited to play with me again,” Deron Williams said. “I’ll try to make the transition as easy as possible.”
Deron Williams said the Nets would not have to revamp their offense because Lopez played more on the outside than in the paint.
“It’s our team,” Deron Williams said. “Whether I am comfortable or not, it’s our team. We’ve got good guys, guys who know how to play basketball and make plays. That’s all we need as long as our defense is locked in. Guys can hit shots, hit big shots, and I think we do. I like we added DeShawne. He can hit shots but he also brings that toughness and can guard people.”
Johnson also is comfortable with his team, for now.
“I know they will play hard,” Johnson said. “When you have a team with Deron Williams as the point guard he will do a good job of quarterbacking the team.”
King expects Lopez to play in a game in six to eight weeks.
Dr. Martin O’Malley, a foot specialist, and team orthopedist Dr. Riley Williams III inserted a screw into the fifth metatarsal of Lopez’s foot at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. O’Malley said rehabilitation will start in two weeks.
Lopez averaged 20.4 points and 6.0 rebounds in 82 games last season.
“We go to him a lot late in games and stuff,” Humphries said. “We won’t have that. We’ll probably have to play at a little different pace and be sharper with the shooting and be more up and down and precise in executing on the break. Depending on who plays his minutes, we’ll be more of an up-tempo team.”
Stevenson averaged 5.3 points and 1.2 assists in helping the Mavericks win their first title last season. He was used mostly in a defensive role and can score more if needed.
“It probably will be tough coming from the team where I came from, but at the same time it’s a challenge,” Stevenson said after his first practice with the Nets. “We were challenged to win a championship and this is a different type of challenge.”
The Associated Press