is set to undergo surgery on his right foot for the third time since 2011. (Erick W. Rasco/SI)
As devastating as a freak injury can be to a team's prospects in a single season, it's the chronic ailments that ruin careers and derail contenders. The Nets can only hope they aren't dealing with just that in the latest complication with the right foot of center Brook Lopez.
According to a team release, the surgically implanted screw in Lopez's foot -- installed to support his fifth metatarsal -- had bent over time, and thus needed to be replaced. The procedure to replace the screw is relatively minor, and Lopez is expected to be back on the court to resume basketball activities by August.
The surgery itself won't much limit Lopez, and requires far more rest than rehabilitation. Once his foot heals around the screw, he should be able to resume his offseason training unencumbered.
Yet this is one more development of concern for a player who twice fractured this same bone during the 2011-12 season and had the screw inserted to safeguard against further injury. That the screw bent under the weight of Lopez's frame goes to show just how much stress big men put on their lower bodies. There's a reason why so many 7-footers fall victim to frequent foot injuries, and that the screw in Lopez's foot couldn't provide the necessary reinforcement is troubling, to say the least.
Lopez was Brooklyn's best player last season, and while we don't yet have reason to question his availability for the 2013-14 campaign, his potential absence could prove brutal for a team without many alternatives. The Nets were a winning team last season on the basis of top-end talent and bargain-bin value, but Lopez was the most consistent star. Deron Williams had a troubling start to the season, Joe Johnson drifted through fits of ineffectiveness and Gerald Wallace had perhaps the worst season of his career. Lopez wasn't perfect, but his low-block scoring and improved pick-and-roll defense were crucial to the Nets' efforts.
If this surgery addresses just a fluke with the screw, there's not much at all to fear. But if this is any kind of omen for what might lie ahead for Lopez, both he and the Nets could suffer mightily -- and consistently -- for it. Lopez has had some rotten luck with health and injury in general, but it's instances like these that suggest the dreaded "injury-prone" label, and hint at the drastic implications involved should the problems with Lopez's right foot persist.