Josh Newman, SNYNets.com
Just when the frustration over when Brook Lopez might return from a sprained right foot was beginning to mount, Monday’s practice on the eve of Round 2 of the East River Rivalry with the New York Knicks offered some answers, not to mention hope.
Lopez, who has missed the last five games since injuring himself at the Boston Celtics on Nov. 28, practiced on Monday, including playing 5-on-5, and has been deemed a game-time decision for Tuesday’s game at Barclays Center.
Despite that status, Nets head coach Avery Johnson told reporters at practice that the chances of Lopez playing Tuesday, “aren’t very high.”
The announcement from the team that Lopez is a game-time decision came moments are General Manager Billy King tweeted a photo of Lopez at practice with the words, “Good to have Brook back in practice.”
Johnson had said multiple times during Lopez’s absence that he would not be cleared until he was able to go through a full practice with contact, which he accomplished on Monday. His availability for Tuesday will depend on how well he recovers from Monday’s practice. He had gone through shooting and agility drills with the team on Saturday and reported no pain.
The team had been cautious with Lopez from the outset of the injury after he missed all but five games last season with a broken right foot. That injury and this latest injury are not related. Johnson told reporters on Sunday before the Nets lost, 97-88, to the Milwaukee Bucks that the injury isn’t healing as rapidly as had been expected and doesn’t think Lopez feels confident enough to pivot quickly or run.
The Nets are 1-4 without Lopez in the lineup, including four straight losses. His 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds have been missed, but his defensive presence in the paint is what has been missed even more. During the first three losses of this 4-game losing streak, the Nets gave up at least 100 points to the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors. Before Lopez went down, the Nets had given up 100 points just four times over their first 14 games.
Additionally, the second unit has been in flux with Lopez out as Andray Blatche has stepped into Lopez’s starting role at center. Blatche has flourished, but the second unit minus Blatche has been a bit of a mess.
Monday’s practice was huge for Lopez because if he did not go full then as Johnson wants, Lopez would have likely been out a few more days. The Nets are about to embark on a stretch of four games in five nights beginning Tuesday, which means the next practice and opportunity for Lopez to go full would have come Wednesday at the earliest.
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA