It didn't take a rocket scientist to surmise that when Robin Lopez went down this week, suffering a broken hand during the Trail Blazers' win Monday night over the San Antonio Spurs, it would be a disruption to a team that thrives on continuity. The Blazers were humming along at 19-6 at the time, right there with the best teams in the Western Conference, but they've also struggled whenever they've had to play without a member of the starting five.

So yeah. Losing Lopez for a significant period of time - maybe a month, maybe six or seven weeks - is obviously going to hurt. But we also know the Blazers will persevere. They're still a strong West contender, they're going to tread water well into 2015, and they'll be as good as ever once Lopez returns later this winter. That's that.

The question that's not being asked about Lopez's injury, though, is one with more long-term implications. What does the injury mean for the career prospects of Lopez, who's in a contract year and hoping to land the biggest payday of his life in July 2015?

To understand Lopez' situation, you have to realize - he's been a bargain bin guy his whole career. Given his pedigree and his physical talents, Lopez should be pulling down an eight-figure paycheck, but instead he's one of the most underpaid guys in the league at just over $6 million a year. How did he get here?

If you look back on Lopez' career arc, you realize that he hasn't been the reliable starting center he is now for long. The early years of his career were riddled with minor injuries, including a back ailment that kept him out of the 2010 playoffs for a Phoenix team that needed one more piece to make a run at serious title contention. (The Suns lost the Western Conference finals to the Lakers in six that year.) When Lopez was signed to his current deal, in a 2012 sign-and-trade that moved him from Phoenix to New Orleans, he had never played 70 games in a season.