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Gerald Wallace practices, doubtful for Tuesday

Gerald Wallace takes a few shots during a

Gerald Wallace takes a few shots during a Brooklyn Nets practice at the Barclays Center. (Oct. 7, 2012) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

There was a familiar face on the court during the Nets’ practice today, someone they’ve been playing without for the previous eight days.

Gerald Wallace, who’s been nursing a sprained left ankle, practiced Monday for the first time since injuring himself in the closing moments of the Nets’ Nov. 3 season opener. The veteran swingman didn’t go through a full practice, though, because the Nets didn’t want him doing too much given it’s his first real action in more than a week.

He's listed as doubtful for Tuesday's game versus the Cavaliers.

“He just was limited in practice, just as much as he could tolerate,” coach Avery Johnson said after practice at the Barclays Center. “So he was in and out of practice, but nothing substantial in terms of where he’s ready to play in a game. We’ll see how he recovers because this is the most he’s done in a while since he’s got injured.”

Asked if Wallace could go Thursday in their nationally-televised game versus the Celtics, Johnson wasn’t so sure if that’ll be the case.

“Too early to tell. Too early,” he said. “Right now, we just want to see how he’s feeling tomorrow. We’ll work him out tomorrow and we’ll see at some point, maybe give him a day to recover and maybe the next day, and then see how he feels for Thursday.”

Deron Williams said it’s best for Wallace to wait until is ankle has fully healed before returning.

“He’s been trying to get out every day,” Williams said. “The trainers have done a good job controlling that because if it were up to him, he’d  probably play tomorrow. He probably would have played yesterday. They are going to work together and try to find a date that works.

"But you’ve just got to be smart about it. We want him out there as soon as possible, but him getting healthy is more important.”   

The Nets already knew how important Wallace is to this, but if there is a positive to all this, his absence further underscores how key it is for everyone to buy into the team’s defensive philosophies. Wallace masks a lot of deficiencies, so the Nets have been somewhat exposed.

Johnson has also been forced to increase the minutes of Williams and Joe Johnson.

“We’ve learned a little bit more on how to play without him,” Avery Johnson said, “but it’s scary to embark on such a task because he means so much to our team. But it’s given guys more playing time, more opportunities. I’ve had to stretch Joe’s minutes a little bit more. But that’s OK because I want Joe to get in better game shape.

"It’s gives Deron and Joe more time to play together. But we need Gerald. We really can’t be the type of team that we want to be without Gerald.”

That’s because his versatility and being able to play small forward or power forward is something that can’t be underestimated.

“Gerald just means so much because he’s a multiple-position player,” Johnson said. “He’s our best defender. Between he and [Kris] Humphries and Reggie [Evans], those guys all defend well, and then when you are putting him out there with Deron and Joe, they are three big guys that defend their position. But Gerald is kind of the leader of our defense. 

“He’s all over the place. He gets guys in the right spot, he causes turnovers and then he changes ends quickly once we are pretty disruptive on defense.”

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