After appearing in merely 28 minutes of the Milwaukee Bucks opening game against the Brooklyn Nets, Brook Lopez hasn’t been seen since due to a back injury; now, it appears he’ll be out for the foreseeable future. Today, the team announced that he underwent successful surgery.
Brook Lopez underwent successful back surgery today in Los Angeles.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 2, 2021
Lopez will continue to be listed as out and updates on his rehabilitation progress will be provided as appropriate.https://t.co/QyZkiNLAKb
First and foremost, it’s a huge bummer for Brook Lopez, who cemented himself as a core part of this Bucks rotation during their march to last year’s championship. His rim defense was a pivotal part of their title run, and it’s gotta be frustrating that he can’t be on the floor with his teammates thus far. Of course, this news makes the recent DeMarcus Cousins signing make that much more sense. Boogie performed well in his first outing, and the Bucks have to be thankful to have a sizable body with enough offensive skill potential to make up for what are sure to be defensive growing pains. Still, it’s worth taking a step back and examining the rather strange route we’ve taken to get here.
It started with the preseason, when Brook Lopez played 91 minutes, the most among all starters. I highly doubt they would’ve risked him out there had they known how serious his back injury might’ve been, but it still had to be frustrating to see him exit after the first game against Brooklyn, never to slap a jersey on again.
From there, it was business as usual with Bucks injury updates, meaning they aren’t particularly forthcoming with even a modicum of information, nor a timetable. Similar to Donte DiVincenzo, we basically had no idea what was going on with Lopez, until November 19, when Shams Charania posted this interview.
Good news for Bucks center Brook Lopez, who's been out since opening night Oct. 19: He is progressing toward a comeback for the reigning champions and says he has a target return in mind. More: pic.twitter.com/un4sf0XVW2— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 19, 2021
We have no clue when this was recorded, how it was cut, etc., but the most notable takeaway was that Lopez said “there’s a target in my mind.” The optimum word there, of course, is “in my mind.” Lopez must’ve been anticipating a return relatively soon, so all seemed fine in Bucks land with the team finally finding its footing.
Then, on November 28, the Bucks signed DeMarcus Cousins to a deal. That could’ve been read two ways:
- Milwaukee had been getting by without Brook, but wanted to lighten the burden on Giannis with a cheap alternative they could dump by early January without much financial repercussion.
- Brook had a setback.
The latter appears far more likely now, despite Bud directly contradicting that in his comments on November 30.
When @WISN_Watson asked Budenholzer if Brook Lopez had experienced a setback, Budenholzer said, "No."— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) November 30, 2021
When Watson followed up about Lopez's timeline, Budenholzer said, "No update on his timeline."
An incredibly charitable reading of that situation is that the Bucks organization didn’t know yet that Brook’s setback was reality, and that surgery wasn’t a definite yet. A less charitable, and probably more realistic reading, is that they didn’t tell the truth.
All of which leads up to December 2, where Brook will now be shelved indefinitely with an injury that is always a tricky proposition. Meanwhile, DeMarcus Cousins’s seven points, four rebounds and one assist are shining a bit brighter than they did last night.
Nothing major, and clearly nothing definitive, but if you want to hear some optimism surrounding the situation, here’s a small dose of it:
Here’s @ZachLowe_NBA on the Brook injury: “There’s optimism around the situation that Brook Lopez will be able to return in the regular season before the playoffs, [but] obviously you never know with back injuries…”— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) December 2, 2021
FWIW: 70 days to NBA trade deadline. https://t.co/kOqLuU6wQO