When Nets don’t have Williams or Lopez (half the time), they’re 32-68

Ever since the Nets traded for Deron Williams in February 2011, their plan has been to build their team around Williams and an All-Star center.

At first, that center was expected to be Dwight Howard. But once the protracted negotiations to acquire him from the Magic fell through, the Nets wound up having that same plan anyway with the emergence of Brook Lopez, who made his first All-Star appearance last year and has developed into arguably the best low-post scorer in the league.

But the Nets rarely have had both Williams and Lopez healthy during their run together, which has now stretched into parts of four seasons. With Lopez out for the season with a third fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot, it’s unclear how much more floor time the pair will share.

“I haven’t,” Williams said when asked if he had thought about such things before the Nets’ 103-86 loss to the Pacers on Monday night. “I’m worried about this year. I’m worried about getting us to the playoffs.

“I just feel bad for [Lopez]. He’s a great person, a great teammate.”

Since Williams and Lopez have been put together, there have been just as many games when the two have played together as when they haven’t. Monday marked the 200th regular-season game the Nets have played since Williams made his Nets debut on Feb. 25, 2011. But Williams and Lopez have only played together in 100 of those games, which helps explain why the Nets haven’t quite found a way to make the pieces properly fit during their tenures.

In fact, the only time Williams and Lopez have really been healthy and playing to their potential at the same time as Nets came during the final 29 games of last season, after Williams finally got over his season-long ankle issues and played brilliantly alongside Lopez after the All-Star break.

In regular-season games Lopez and Williams have played together, the Nets are 55-45. When the duo doesn’t play together, the team is 32-68.

This season, Williams and Lopez only took the floor together in 12 games, and that includes Williams exiting the Nov. 15 win in Phoenix after five minutes with a sprained left ankle. That was one of a series of injuries — including Lopez missing nine games with a sprained left ankle of his own, Paul Pierce missing a few games with a groin injury and a broken bone in his right hand, and both Jason Terry (sore left knee) and Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) missing much of the season — that have struck the Nets this season.

“It’s been tough for us,” said Williams. “We definitely got hit with the injury bug. It seems like we get one guy back and we lose another. It’s been a frustrating year, but we still feel like we have a team that can win, and we’ve just got to play better.”

Playing better, though, won’t be easy with the Nets now missing their anchor at both ends of the floor, with no obvious replacement for Lopez’s deft scoring touch both inside and out and his ability to protect the rim.

“It definitely hurts our team, but more importantly I just feel bad for him,” Williams said. “I know he’s down, he’s frustrated about his foot, and I just want to be there for him, and hopefully he can get through this and come back stronger.

“It’s a tough situation he’s been in. It seems that he can’t get healthy. He comes back, had a great year last year, and now he’s dealing with the same thing again. It’s definitely tough.”

For the Nets, too, both in the present and the future.