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Joe Johnson may return for Nets against Cavaliers

Joe Johnson controls the ball during a game

Joe Johnson controls the ball during a game against the Sacramento Kings at Barclays Center. (Jan. 5, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Joe Johnson practiced for the first time in more than a week Tuesday, and should be back on the court either Wednesday night at Cleveland or Thursday night against the Bulls at the Barclays Center.

The Nets shooting guard has missed four straight games because of injuries to his left heel and right quad, and is not inclined to return to play on consecutive nights.

"I know it's a back-to-back situation, so it's pick what game you want to play basically," Johnson said after practice. "So we'll just see."

The Nets (42-31) are two games ahead of the Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings, so it figures that the team will want him back on the court for Thursday's game. The Nets are 2-2 without Johnson, who is averaging 16.4 points and is one of the team's more steady defensive players.

Of course, the timetable for his return could be pushed back, depending on how he feels Wednesday, 24 hours after going through a full practice.

"It's probably my first time getting up and down with the team in a few weeks, so just to get that opportunity felt great," Johnson said. "We're just going to take it easy and see how it feels."

Nets point guard Deron Williams was encouraged by what he saw from his teammate in practice.

"He looked good," Williams said. "He was moving good. It's good to see him back out on the court."

The Nets are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and if the season ended Wednesday they would have home-court advantage and play the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. Because the middle of the East is so tight -- the Nets, the Hawks and the Bulls are jockeying for the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 spots -- Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said resting his players and playing at a high level are more important than the standings right now.

"You can't control the standings, you can only win every game where you can," Carlesimo said. "You can win and end up with a less favorable matchup, so whatever happens happens. You try to win, but it's clearly not as important as the health issue."

Carlesimo added that he would rather have the home floor, but "in general, you have to be able to win on the road to be successful in the playoffs."

Notes & quotes:The Nets signed former Syracuse standout Kris Joseph to a 10-day contract. The 6-7 Joseph had been playing for the Nets' NBDL affiliate, the Springfield Armor (Mass.) . . . Gerald Wallace (sore left foot) did not practice.

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