NEW YORK -- Brook Lopez underwent an extensive surgical procedure on his broken right foot Saturday in an effort to spare the Nets' center any further damage to the area that has hindered him for three years.
A team of surgeons, including one of the doctors who finally ended Grant Hill's struggle with ankle woes, repaired the fractured fifth metatarsal in Lopez's foot and performed a preventive procedure aimed at lowering the chance of reinjuring the area. The procedure, known as an osteotomy, involved repositioning the first metatarsal to more evenly distribute weight on the sole of the foot and "unload" or limit stress on the surgically repaired bone.
"The repositioning portion of the surgery lessens the stress on the fractured bone, and decreases the likelihood of re-injuring the foot in the future," said Dr. Riley Williams III, the Nets' medical director.
Lopez, 25, will miss the rest of the season but is expected to return to the court for offseason workouts, the team said.
Nets GM Billy King briefed reporters on the procedure Saturday night before the Nets hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers, but was short on details and declined to speculate about Lopez's chances for a full recovery or how much the risk of reinjury was lessened by the procedure.
"Talk to me in October when he's in training camp or in the summer when he's working out," King said. "That's all we can do. There's not a magical answer I can give you guys projecting the future. I can only answer what the doctors told me."
Lopez fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in December 2011 and underwent surgery. He returned in February for five games before missing the rest of the lockout-shortened season with a sprained right ankle.
In June 2013, it was discovered that the screw in Lopez's surgically repaired foot had bent. He had surgery again to replace it and returned to basketball activities in August.
The procedure to reposition the first metatarsal in Lopez's right foot is the same one that essentially saved the career of former Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas in 2001. Among the surgeons who worked on Lopez was Dr. James Nunley, the head of orthopedic surgery at Duke University, who performed the fourth surgery on Hill's chronic left ankle in 2003. As part of that procedure, Nunley broke Hill's left heel and realigned his left leg. Poor alignment and mobility restrictions often are the root causes of chronic knee and foot injuries.
Hill played nine more NBA seasons before retiring after last season at age 40.
"Different guys' bodies react differently," King said. "I think Ilgauskas had it and had great success. Grant Hill had several different surgeries, and Dr. Nunley did Grant's and got him back playing. So different guys have had different things done and they've had different success."
A drastic procedure on Yao Ming's chronic left foot in 2009 was not successful. Yao had his arch lowered in a procedure that amounted to the rebuilding of his entire foot to redistribute his weight, but played only five more NBA games.
King also addressed the struggles of his $180 million basketball team (including luxury tax), which beat the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Thursday night before opening a four-game homestand against the Cavs.
"We've got enough talent," King said. "We've just got to play hard and continue to build on what we did against Oklahoma City. I thought the guys competed and played great defense the second half, and that's what it comes down to. They've got to figure it out. They've got the ability."
Even with an 11-21 record heading into the Cleveland game, the Nets are only two games out of the eighth playoff spot and 5 1-2 games out of the Atlantic Division lead.
"I would've liked it sooner, but we've got to start playing better basketball," King said. "Having AK [Andrei Kirilenko] back gives us that flexibility. But everybody's got injuries – the Cavs, the Clippers, it's been a year of injuries in the NBA. It's up to us to figure out how to make do with this."