2012 NBA Trade Deadline: Brook Lopez's 38-Point Game Comes at Good Time for Nets
Suddenly, Brook Lopez.
That's the best way to characterize Lopez's monster 38-point game in a win against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night. Thanks to his injured foot, Lopez has been an afterthought for much of this NBA season, yet there he was, dominating inside against one of the Association's best teams.
The New Jersey Nets have been missing a lot of ingredients this season, and Lopez's production was one of them. Lopez is no superstar, but on a good night, he'll score 20 points and pull down a handful of rebounds. He's a productive non-superstar who is occasionally very good, as he was on Tuesday night.
If nothing else, Tuesday night's outburst is a sign that Lopez is back and ready to contribute after missing so much time due to injury. He may not make the Nets dangerous, but he'll definitely make them less of a pushover.
All of this being said, we now reach the part of our program where we brush aside all the BS about what this means for the Nets so we can get to the good stuff. It's all well and good that Lopez had a good game and helped the Nets beat a tough team, but the important thing here is Lopez's trade value.
It just went up. Way up.
This is pretty important, as it concerns New Jersey's ongoing interest/pursuit of Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard. Remember, Lopez was a key piece in a deal that would have brought Howard to the Nets before the season started. That deal was ultimately killed by ownership, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, but it was widely speculated that the Magic could easily trade Howard for Lopez and other assets when it was convenient for them to do so.
The NBA's trade deadline (March 15) is fast approaching, and that means it will be convenient for the Magic to trade Howard very soon. If Howard doesn't guarantee that he will stay in Orlando beyond this season, the Magic run the risk of losing him for nothing this offseason if they choose not to trade him.
Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated reported this week that Howard still very much prefers New Jersey, and it's not exactly a secret that the interest is mutual.
The Magic obviously aren't going to give Howard up unless they know they're getting something good in return for him, and that's why Lopez's breakout is such a big deal. The Magic now know a) that Lopez is healthy and b) that he can still ball. Should the Nets and the Magic start talking again (assuming they're not already, of course), the Nets will be able to offer Lopez in a trade for Howard while keeping a straight face.
It's not going to be that easy if and when the Nets and Magic start talking, as Amick says Nets general manager Billy King will have to get one or more teams involved—just like he did with the nixed preseason trade. But, Lopez is definitely a key player in this saga, and he did the Nets a huge favor by reestablishing that he's a pretty good player out on the court.
So right about now, you have to think the Nets are imploring the heavens to make sure Lopez doesn't get hurt again.
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