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Jim Mancari,

Brook Lopez

It’s only been seven games, but it seems like an eternity that the Nets have been playing without center Brook Lopez.

In that stretch, the Nets are 2-5, breaking a five game losing streak versus the 4-19 Toronto Raptors in Toronto's Air Canada Center last night. Unfortunately for Avery Johnson's team, though, the Nets lost all four of the game on its four-game homestand.

The Nets desperately need their big man back in the lineup, and are hoping that Lopez can play on Friday night when the Nets battle the Detroit Pistons. Nets' general manager Billy King reports that Lopez says he feels good and is ready to get back to action, but the team wants to be sure he can handle playing in an NBA game.

Originally, Lopez was supposed to miss only two games with a mild ligament sprain in the top of his right foot. Concern wasn't too high, initially, but now that Lopez has been missing for a while, concern has grown.

To their credit, Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans have helped to adequately fill in for Lopez—Blatche with scoring and Evans with rebounding. But still, having Lopez healthy could have altered the outcome of a few of those Nets losses.

As far as rebounding, the Nets really haven’t suffered in that category since Lopez went down. In fact, in the seven games Lopez has missed, the Nets have only lost the rebounding battle once and just by three rebounds—47-44 against the Warriors.

While the Nets miss Lopez’s offensive production, the major factor in losing him for an extended period of time has been the shuffling of personnel. Brooklyn did not miss a beat early in the season when Blatche subbed in off the bench. The Nets had a scoring big man on the floor at all times, which allowed Avery Johnson to experiment with the team’s depth.

(RELATED CONTENT: Will Nets Lose Blatche After This Season?)

However, without Lopez and with Blatche starting, the Nets really don’t have a backup center. Making up the offensive production has been difficult, since Kris Humphries has not found his offensive groove and Evans is downright not an offensive force.

The Nets have to be thinking long-term when it comes to Lopez returning to action. If it takes a few more games for Lopez to be healthy the rest of the season, so be it.

Hopefully for Nets fans, by Friday's game against the Pistons, Lopez may play. But in the near future, each game without the big man will be a struggle.

Jim Mancari is a Contributor to Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.

Tags: avery johnson, Reggie Evans, kris jumphries, Brooklyn, lopez injury, Columns, brook lopez, nets, andray blatche, Brooklyn Nets, mild foot sprain
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