The saga of Andrea Bargnani's preseason with the Nets is starting to look like a movie seen in New York before. Only this is a lower-budget version of the original.

Bargnani, who is getting about $1.4 million this season, is battling a hamstring injury that could keep him out for the Oct. 28 season opener against the Bulls. While the 7-footer says there is improvement, he hasn't said he'll be ready.

He participated in Wednesday's practice but sat out the contact portion of the workout. Afterward he was asked directly if he thought he'd be able to play in the opener and replied: "I can't say I'm positive, but I think we're doing pretty good."

One year ago, Bargnani was making more than $11 million with the Knicks and also had a hamstring injury in the preseason -- that one was the right and this year it's the left -- and though he insisted he was getting close, he missed 49 of the first 51 games.

Guard Markel Brown, out with an oblique injury suffered at training camp, practiced for the first time and said he should be able to perform at game level by the end of the week and expects to be ready for the opener.

Bargnani's ability to score -- likely off the bench -- will be needed. When he practiced Oct. 14, it appeared he would be able to get into some preseason games, but he missed all of the final three. He said it was the result of "a very small setback," but also indicated the hamstring feels better each day. He was able to participate in parts of practice Friday and Saturday.

"It was very bad, very frustrating. But it is what it is," Bargnani said. "You have to be ready for the first game."

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Coach Lionel Hollins said "practice is more valuable than preseason games" so it's possible Bargnani could be ready to perform after a week of practice. The forward/center said he learned the team's system at training camp. But even Hollins said he wasn't certain he will be 100 percent in a week.

"I don't know. I hope he will," Hollins said. "I just want him to come and be healthy and play, play at full speed, play up to his capabilities."

Brown will be in the backcourt rotation. For him, the goal for the next week is to shake off the rust.

"Just watching on the sidelines, it looks like you got it," Brown said, "but actually being out there on the court you've got to react a different way."