Brook Lopez celebrates a fourth quarter basket against the Boston...

Brook Lopez celebrates a fourth quarter basket against the Boston Celtics. (Nov. 15, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Nets coach Avery Johnson is getting somewhat antsy as he awaits Brook Lopez's return.

Johnson said his starting center's right foot injury isn't healing as rapidly as had been expected and doesn't think Lopez feels confident enough to pivot quickly or run. Lopez injured the foot Nov. 28, and although the Nets repeatedly have indicated he's day-to-day, he missed his fifth straight game Sunday night.

"I think it's approaching that point now, yeah," Johnson said when asked if Lopez's recovery is taking longer than expected. "Obviously, I'm basically giving you the same answer [over and over] and it's not like I'm telling you something that's not the truth. It's a little bit slower than what we thought, and we'll see if we can catch some good fortune here soon, where he can heal enough to a point where he can practice and play in the game."

Lopez won't play until he practices and recovers without setbacks. He worked out before the game against the Bucks, and the Nets will see if he can participate in more than just the non-contact part of Monday's practice leading into Tuesday's game against the Knicks.

On more than one occasion, Johnson has said Lopez, on his third right foot injury in 11 months, wasn't in pain.

"You can be pain-free, but it's the running and the cutting," Johnson said. "You can run straight ahead, but if there's discomfort when you are cutting -- even though it's not painful -- then that's a telltale sign that something is not fully operational.

"Again, with a guy with a foot history like this, he's got to be able to get through a practice, recover well, go through a shootaround and then get through the shootaround, have no issues in the afternoon and then play."

With six games in nine days and a pair of back-to-backs this week, the Nets won't have all that much time to practice, meaning Johnson might have to get creative as he works Lopez back into the mix.

"We have a plan," he said, "but until we can get him in a practice and he can go through a practice, it will be irresponsible on our part just to throw him out there in a game."

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