Brook Lopez returns to Nets practice

Brook Lopez
AP

Brook Lopez, Tony Wroten, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes
AP

Brook back?

Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez practiced for the first time since suffering a mild midfoot sprain on his right foot during the team’s excursion to China in mid-October, not including the team’s open practice Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center. The team went through a non-contact practice.

Lopez said the practice was “great” but cautioned against the idea that he’s 100%. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel it a little out there every now and then, but it’s been progressing very well,” he said after Monday’s practice. “I feel better every day.”

Lopez then practiced again Tuesday afternoon, sticking with non-contact as the team went through a full practice. He wants to play Wednesday in the team’s home opener against the Boston Celtics, but his status remains unclear. It’s in the hands of his coaching staff — and his foot. Coach Lionel Hollins thinks he’ll be ready to go. “I’ve always been encouraged,” Hollins said about Lopez’s progression towards opening day. “I’m still encouraged until they tell me otherwise.”

The 7-footer averaged 20.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in 17 games last season prior to his season-ending foot injury, shooting a career-high 56.2 percent from the field. He also improved as a rim protector, turning away over 60 percent of close shots when guarding the rim, per SportVU’s optical tracking data.

While the team wants Lopez healthy first, they wouldn’t mind if that meant he was back for the opener. “We put a lot of stuff in (while Lopez was out),” Hollins added. “I want him to make sure that he’s up to speed on what we’re doing offensively and defensively. I want him to get healthy, first and foremost.”

Count his frontcourt mate Kevin Garnett for that too.

“Brook is one of my best players, man,” Garnett added. “You’re a lot more relaxed, a lot more confident. Not to say I don’t have any confidence or nothing like that, but when you’ve got your best players out here, like if you go to war or anything, you want to have your best with you, and Brook is no different from that.”

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