Yes, it was Deron Williams who turned back the clock to a bygone era when he was a clutch playoff performer to help the Brooklyn Nets even up their opening-round series against the Atlanta Hawks at 2-2.
But that shouldn’t overshadow what Brook Lopez also contributed Monday night: 26 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks. In fact, he was so good, he almost gave this poor sideline reporter a stroke:
Lopez had just as big an impact on Game 3 – another Nets win – with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
Through most of the season, Lopez has been the sail that’s kept this whole Brooklyn thing afloat for the Nets, averaging 17.2 points and 7.4 rebounds and twice earning the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award, all this after bouncing back from a foot surgery that kept him out most of last season.
Still, that didn’t stop the Nets from dangling his name before and near the trade deadline, and according to several GMs and execs around the league, they should be counting their lucky stars nothing ever materialized from that.
In an article published today over at the New York Post, Fred Kerber cited several anonymous league sources who believe Brooklyn should do everything in their power to retain the 27-year-old center. Here’s what a few of those sources had to say to Kerber:
“If he walks, where are they going? They don’t have draft picks. They’re flip-flopping their pick [with Atlanta]. They’re getting the 29th instead of the 15th. For their future, I don’t see how they can lose him,” the GM said. “If Brook wants to stay there, he should be able to get whatever he wants.”
“Why would they let him go?” an exec from the Central Division said. “Everything I see, he’s a good kid. And he can [bleeping] play.”
“If he leaves, then they are starting all over again,” yet another rival executive said. “He has proven he is healthy. There’s no question he’s always been a good basketball player. The question was ‘Can he come back from the injury?’ He’s shown he can, especially the last two months.”
Lopez has some choices to make on his own behalf this summer. He’s set to earn almost $17 million in the final year of his contract next season, but he can also opt out and sign a 5-year max deal this summer. Whatever he chooses, the prevailing thought is that the Nets should give him whatever he wants. That’s a cozy place to be for a player who may elect to be a free agent this summer.