After all, their stories are extremely similar.
Ilgauskas was once a young, talented center. Lopez is a young, talented center.
Ilgauskas once endured numerous foot injuries and surgeries early in his career. Lopez has endured numerous foot injuries and surgeries early in his career.
ESPN.com’s Brian Windorst mentioned recently that the Nets could elect to be extremely careful with Lopez this season, resting him in back-to-backs and possibly not allowing him to play three games in five days. In his first season back in 2001-02, Ilgauskas averaged 21.4 minutes, starting just 23 of the 62 games he played in. Over the next seven seasons, however, Ilgauskas never came off the bench, missed just 23 games and played between 27.2 and 33.5 minutes (stats).
Ilgauskas’s success certainly provides reason for optimism, but it doesn’t mean the Nets are going to handle Lopez’s return the exact same way.
“I think when he came back, he averaged 30 minutes in his career after that,” Nets GM Billy King said of Ilgauskas. “I think we use [Ilgauskas] as a success, but we’ll gradually monitor [Brook] and get him back playing, but that will be made by the medical department. But I don’t think we’re using Ilgauskas or different guys [to compare]. I think we’re going to use Brook and go along with a medical plan to come up with a plan to get him back. Any time a guy comes back from injury, you don’t just throw him out there so ‘OK, he can play 42 minutes.”
With Lopez and Deron Williams coming off surgery, and Kevin Garnett (38 years old), Joe Johnson (33 years old next June), Andrei Kirilenko (34 years old next Feb.) and Paul Pierce (assuming he returns, 37 years old in Oct.) getting older, it’s imperative that the Nets give their veterans the requisite amount of rest and keep their minutes down, so they’ll be ready to go in the playoffs. That was the case last season, and that will remain the case going into next season.
Depth, once again, will be key, which means finding a capable replacement for Shaun Livingston should he depart via free agency. And which also means making sure Mirza Teletovic maintains consistency, Mason Plumlee progresses in his second year and Kirilenko stays healthy.
The San Antonio Spurs did not allow any of their players to average 30 minutes during the regular season and ended up winning the championship.
Only Williams and Johnson averaged more than 30 minutes per game for the Nets in 2013-14. Garnett’s minutes were managed, but to no avail. He battled back spasms and had a limited impact during the playoffs. His age certainly had a lot to do with that.
“I think we sort of did a lot of that last year. Unfortunately we ran into Miami and couldn’t get over the hump there. But also, I think we dug ourselves such a hole at 10-21, we had to play so perfect down the stretch to get out of it that maybe guys, toward the end, started playing too many minutes and the injuries [came back to hurt us in that regard],” King said. “Once we got our team healthy and we got the right guys playing, I think it was good.”