Jim Mancari, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK, N.Y. — Before the New Jersey Nets acquired Deron Williams in February, 2011, Brook Lopez was the only semi-reliable source of offense on the team.
Williams developed a strong chemistry with his former Utah Jazz teammates, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur, so many wondered how well he and Lopez would flourish on the court.
However, after the blockbuster trade, Williams only played in 12 of the team’s final 25 games after dealing with a wrist injury. Lopez went on to average 20.4 points per game for 2010-2011 season, but he and Williams had very little time to develop chemistry and gel.
Heading into last season, Lopez had never missed a game over the course of his previous three seasons, and that includes starting all 82 games in both 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. Then, heading into the 2011-2012 season, it seemed as if Lopez and Williams would finally have the opportunity to develop into the dynamic duo they were expected to become.
However, Lopez suffered an injury to his right foot in the Nets final preseason game, and he ended up being sidelined for the first 32 games of the season. Meanwhile, Williams played well with power forward Kris Humphries but still lacked a dominant center in the middle.
Lopez appeared in just five games total in 2012 before his season was officially ended on April 6 due to an ankle injury in the same right foot.
So with the preseason set to begin, all eyes will be on Williams and Lopez and how well they play off of one another. If both stay healthy, we will finally get the chance to see the two playing together on the same court for an extended period of time.
Luckily though, because the team has other offensive weapons, Williams won’t have to force feed Lopez, and there will probably be less pressure on the two of them to instantly click. Williams will have plenty of options and will look to involve Humphries as well as Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace.
Even still, the Williams-Lopez dynamic can shape the Nets’ offense. Lopez has a good low-post game, but he is also a capable midrange shooter — at least, for a seven-footer. Because Humphries is a strong rebounder, Lopez should get the green light to fire from mid-range, since Humphries can potentially clean up the offensive glass.
If opposing teams try to limit Lopez’s production by double-teaming him, Williams, being a capable scorer, can either look for his other targets or score the ball himself. But in order for these options to be there, Williams and Lopez will have to get on the same page. The earlier, the better.
It shouldn’t be surprising if Avery Johnson gives Williams and Lopez extended minutes on the court together during the preseason. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Coach Johnson knows that he can build his offense off of the options that this duo playing well together would create.
Because the Nets have some capable weapons on offense, Lopez’s scoring average may slip, since he’s no longer the only reliable source of offensive production. That was the case in the pre-Williams era.
And though many Nets fans were hoping to see Dwight Howard suiting up at Barclays Center this season, a healthy Brook Lopez — teamed up with Deron Williams and the rest of the starting five — can be a very productive player that can help the Nets win games.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.