Andrei Kirilenko returns but still is slowed by back injury

Nets' Andrei Kirilenko speaks with the media during

Nets' Andrei Kirilenko speaks with the media during training camp in Durham, N.C. (Oct. 2, 2013) (Credit: AP)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - How serious is Andrei Kirilenko's back injury?

With only two days remaining before the Nets open the season Wednesday in Cleveland, the answer to that remains murky. Kirilenko was upgraded to limited when the Nets practiced Sunday, but judging by what coach Jason Kidd told reporters, he barely practiced at all.

"He got some treadmill work in," Kidd said, "but he didn't do anything on the floor. It's a day-by-day thing with him. We'll see how he feels tomorrow."

Kirilenko already had left the basketball court once reporters entered practice and was not made available to talk to the media. His back kept him out of the Nets' final five preseason games, meaning he hasn't played in a game situation since Oct. 12.

Kirilenko, who has averaged 12.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.9 blocks per game, was considered a brilliant addition to the Nets' bench when he signed for their $3.1-million mini-midlevel exception.

Kirilenko's health could be a big X-factor for the team this season because the 6-9 forward is considered one of the team's most versatile players. Kidd hopes to use him to spell a wide range of players, including Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson.

"He's a guy who can stretch the defense," Kidd said. "He knows how to play. He's very unselfish. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense."

Notes & quotes: Pierce sat out Sunday's practice with a jammed big toe, but it looks as though the decision was just precautionary. Pierce shot baskets with his teammates at the end of practice and made it clear that he can't wait to play his first game as a Net. "I'm excited," he said. "You don't get a lot of opportunities like this. I waited 10 years in Boston before I got a chance to play for a championship. I'm going to cherish the moment and embrace it and see what happens."

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