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Follow the Nets' return to New York with Newsday's Rod Boone.

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Brook probable for Nets' tilt with Pistons

Injured Brook Lopez looks on during a game

Injured Brook Lopez looks on during a game against the Knicks. (Dec. 11, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

He’s back.

But whether Brook Lopez makes his triumphant return against the Pistons at the Barclays Center Friday night or in Chicago versus the Bulls on Saturday remains to be seen. The Nets’ 7-foot center, who’s missed the past seven games with a sprained ligament in his right foot, is listed as probable for their matchup with Detroit and he appears to be on track to hit the court when things tip off in a few hours.

“It felt pretty good, you know?” Lopez said after the team’s shootaround at the Barclays Center.  “I’ve been itching to get back out there for a while now. We’ve been taking it slow. So we’ll see how I feel when I get in tonight.”

Avery Johnson wouldn’t commit to whether Lopez will be in action Friday.

“I’m just saying probable is probable,” the Nets coach said.

What’s the biggest concern that could keep Lopez sidelined for at least one more day?

“I think it’s just a matter of we are in December,” Lopez said. “We don’t want to take any chances, but I myself am pretty hopeful that I will play tonight.”

Don’t look for Lopez to log a lot of minutes, though. Johnson, who suggested Lopez will play in only one of the Nets’ two games since they’re back-to-backs, indicated Lopez won’t be on the court for more than 24 minutes.

“I think we’re going to have a cap, whenever it is that I come back,” Lopez said. “We’re still going to take it slow. It’s not like I’m going out and playing 48 minutes.”

He added: “I’m pretty confident. I think we’ve handled this the right way. [Trainer] Timmy [Walsh] has done a great job with it, and when ever I get in there, I’m definitely going to be ready to play.”

Lopez’s teammates are just looking forward to seeing him out there. Period.

“He helps us on both ends of the floor,” Deron Williams said. “He has been great defensively this year, which has been the biggest help for us because he clogs up the middle. He’s blocking shots. Even when he’s not blocking shots, he’s altering shots, and you know what he is capable of on offense.

“So, we are definitely happy to have him back.”

Once Lopez is inserted into the lineup, it should also help get the Nets’ bench in order once again. Andray Blatche has filled in nicely during Lopez’s absence, but now he can flourish with the second unit the way he had been prior to Lopez’s injury.

“It changes a lot,” Joe Johnson said. “It puts guys back in their positions, where coach would like for us to be as far as our bench, which has been huge for us. Come off the bench with guys like Blatche, who’s had a big impact since Brook has been gone. Blatche playing with the second unit definitely helps out a lot,.

“So Brook changes a lot and we need his post presence defensively and offensively.”

Tags: Brook Lopez , Avery Johnson , Joe Johnson , Deron Williams , Barclays Center , Bulls , Pistons

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