Nets center Lopez to undergo foot surgery

NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Nets said starting center Brook Lopez will undergo surgery today after sustaining a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot.

The 23-year-old was hurt in the first half of Wednesday night's 88-82 loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Lopez's loss will be felt on the court, but also as the centerpiece in of the Nets' efforts to trade for superstar Magic center Dwight Howard.

"It's not good to hear, but it is what it is," Nets general manager Billy King said. "We have contingency plans, we're looking at options, and we will make the right moves as we go forward."

Lopez, who continued playing on the foot in the second half after suffering the injury, had a precautionary X-ray after the game, when the injury was discovered.

"I think we all were surprised by it, for the fact that he kept playing," King said.

One of Lopez's biggest strengths during his first three seasons in the NBA was his durability, a rare trait for a 7-footer given all of the stress their bodies endure. Lopez didn't miss a regular-season game in his first three seasons, and has started every game each of the past two years.

Lopez, who averaged 20 points per game last season, will likely be out for at least the next 4-6 weeks, although King refused to put a timetable on the injury.

The bigger impact on the Nets could be what Lopez's injury means in their ongoing quest to pry Howard away from Orlando.

One thing that could work in the Nets' favor, ironically, is the fact that the All-Star Game is being held in Orlando in late February. The general belief has been that the Magic will resist the temptation to deal Howard, who has requested a trade to the Nets, until after the game, in order to avoid the embarrassment of having him play in the All-Star Game for another team.

That built-in delay on trade talks would give the Nets valuable time to get Lopez back on the court and prove he's healthy.

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