Missing Brook: Why I Don’t Like the Brook Lopez Trade
The Brooklyn Nets have traded loved center Brook Lopez to the Los Angeles Lakers for young point guard D’Angelo Russell and center Timofey Mozgov. The Nets also sent the Lakers the 27th pick in the draft as part of the trade as well. While the trade might have seemed like a fair one for both teams, and certainly fills needs for both organizations, I’m not a fan.
I’m not a fan of this trade as a Nets fan, for many reasons. I loved Lopez, and I wanted to see him play his entire career as a Net. The Nets aren’t a franchise that has a long list of all-time greats like the Knicks, Celtics, and Lakers have. Even guys like Jason Kidd and Dr. J, the most famous Nets of all time, weren’t “true Nets” their entire career. Dr. J was a Sixer when he went to the NBA (he was a Net when they were in the ABA), and Jason Kidd had the most success as a Net, but NJ was only one of his many stops in his Hall of Fame career. Not too many players want to be Nets. Brook did. He loved being there. He never complained. He showed up and did his job. He’s the franchise’s all-time point scorer, and the longest tenured Net of all-time as well. Even if the Nets stink for the next five-to-six years, Nets fans would have still shown up to see Lopez play out his final years as a Net. He was that loved by the fan base. If he was going to go, I would have either, “A, traded him to a contender so he could compete for a championship, or “B”, gotten A LOT more back for him (remember, Brooklyn’s original asking price for Lopez was two first rounders, so the Nets could really rebuild)
That leads me to my second point. I don’t think Russell is that good, or even will be that good in the future. For one, his immaturity scares me. I know he can grow out of that, but it’s very rare that we see young players with immaturity issues get it together right away (note guys like J.R. Smith and JaVale McGee, who turned their attitude around, but it took many years, and SEVERAL different teams to do it). Again, that could be something that he grows out of, but a young guy who’s immature living in New York City with millions of dollars on a losing team without draft picks and a relatively unknown coach doesn’t sound like the place where you go to grow up. Two, although he has shown flashes, I just don’t see the consistency in his game (and more importantly, his effort) to be excited to have him, and to project that he’s going to be good in the future. I know he’s still very young, and has a lot of basketball left in him, but I just don’t fully trust the notion that he’s going to be a star. You don’t trade an all-time franchise type player for a guy that might not be a star. Again, Nets fans loved Brook and Brook loved Brooklyn. If there’s a chance Russell doesn’t live up to his potential, this will be a trade that Nets fans are going to be upset with for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, I like Russell, and I’m willing to give him a chance, but not if it costs me Brook, who had a lot of the sentimental value as noted above.
Part of the reason why I don’t think Russell will be able to develop well in Brooklyn, is the team around him (or lack thereof). Coach Kenny Atkinson was brought in because he’s a specialist in player development, especially at the guard position. As good as Atkinson may be, it’s up to Russell to be willing to listen to Atkinson’s teachings. If Russell is still immature, that might not happen. Besides Atkinson, the Nets don’t really have an atmosphere conducive to the proper development of Russell’s potential (some of that noted above). Besides Jeremy Lin, the Nets don’t really have quality veterans to help coach and teach Russell on the floor. Lopez would have been a great guy for Russell to develop chemistry with both on an off the floor. Speaking of chemistry, what would have helped with Russell’s inconsistency issues more? Having a stud like Lopez to use in pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop situations, or a bunch of other under-developed players that are trying to figure out how to play at the NBA level themselves, who don’t have nearly the talent or potential that Russell has? By getting rid of the best player on the team, and by not having the necessary draft picks to bring in high quality talent around Russell, his growth will most likely be stunted, and may not live up to his potential. Getting Russell was good, but without a star player like Brook to play with, Russell will most likely struggle.
Which leads me to my last point. I just believe the Nets could have gotten a better deal. I noted the original asking price for Lopez. Tell me how Russell and Mozgov are anywhere close to what the Nets wanted for Lopez? Instead of getting two first rounders (which I can see where a team will come down from that price), they wind up GIVING UP one of the first rounders that they had. This trade was really Brook for Mozgov’s bad contract, and the Lakers threw Russell in the mix to sweeten the deal. To me, that’s an unacceptable deal. This is the biggest reason why I don’t like the trade. The Nets, who NOTORIOUSLY are usually on the bad end of a trade, finally had the leverage to make the demands that THEY were comfortable with. The Lakers were the ones that were desperate to get rid of Mozgov’s terrible contract. The Lakers were the ones desperate to get rid of Russell before Thursday’s draft. The Lakers were the one desperate to find a team that, A, was willing to take both Russell and Mozgov, and B, had the means to take both guys. That gave the Nets all the leverage. You can make an argument that the Nets were equally as desperate to find young talent, but they had a game plan to stay the course and make smaller deals to get young guys in to develop, so no, they shouldn’t have been that desperate to make this deal. This deal goes against everything that they were trying to do.
They had the leverage and the power to make this trade totally work for them, instead of giving the Lakers exactly what they wanted. They had two options, they could have said “nope, Brook is off the table. We’ll take Russell and Mozgov off your hands, but we’re only going to give up x,y, and z.” They also could have said “ok, so if we’re giving up OUR BEST PLAYER in Brook, then it’s going to cost you more than just Russell and Mozgov. Either throw in a draft pick, or give us Randle or another asset to sweeten the deal.” I guarantee you that’s what every other team that the Lakers talked to said to them, hence why they went down the line to the Nets. The fact that the Nets were the only team to bite on this deal scares me, and it makes me question whether or not the Nets have learned their lesson from trades past (also note, I know the Lakers asking price for Russell was high, and included a lottery pick. However, again, other teams who were in the driver's seat could have shot that down easily, and it’s also worth mentioning that adding Mozgov’s bad contract into the mix negated any team from having to give up a high pick. The lottery pick would have been if this were a deal for Russell alone). When you hold the power, you dictate the terms and conditions; not the other way around. I just think that the Nets could have still gotten Russell either without giving up Lopez to do it, or by getting more in return for Lopez’s service.
If Russell becomes a top point guard in the league in the next few years, then I’ll be happy. I doubt it will happen, but I’m not going to close the door on that possibility. Also, if the Lakers don’t re-sign Lopez next summer, and he decides to come back to the Nets to finish out his career, then I’ll be happy. If both scenarios come true, then I’ll be bursting with joy and this will be the best trade the Nets have made in over a decade. The jury is still out though for now. If this is truly the end of the Brook Lopez era in Brooklyn, then let me take this moment to say thank you to Brook for his years here. He might have played himself into the Mount Rushmore of Nets players, and it was fun to watch him play these last nine years. Just another day in the life of a Brooklyn Nets fan.