Nets center Brook Lopez is feeling better, but will not be ready to play until Sunday night at the earliest, meaning he'll miss Friday night's game against the Golden State Warriors, according to Brooklyn coach Avery Johnson.
"We're making some progress, but he's not ready to play in a game," Johnson told reporters during a Thursday conference call.
Lopez, who has missed the last three games due to a mild right foot sprain, went through a light individual workout Thursday, but did not take any contact or do any lateral movements.
"He's gotta get through a full contact practice before he'll be released to play, and we're not sure when that's going to happen," Johnson said.
The Nets are hopeful Lopez can participate in Friday's morning shootaround, then possibly practice Saturday before determining whether he can return on Sunday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Johnson said Lopez's recovery isn't taking any longer than the Nets expected. Lopez was in a walking boot for a couple of days before undergoing a precautionary MRI on Monday in New York, which came back negative. Doctors have ruled out the injury being anything serious, and say it is unrelated to the two right foot fractures that caused Lopez to miss all but five games last season.
Still, the Nets are taking a conservative approach with Lopez, and don't want him to rush back too soon.
"Right now there's no pain," Johnson said. "Now, it's a point of building confidence and trying to get him moving laterally, and we're just not there yet."
Lopez has been out since spraining his right foot on Nov. 28 against the Boston Celtics. The 24-year-old is averaging 18.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 14 games for the Nets (11-6).
Backup center Andray Blatche has thrived in Lopez's three-game absence, averaging 17.7 points and 9.3 rebounds after being inserted into the starting lineup.
"He's really confident now, and feels like he's got something to prove," Johnson said of Blatche. "He still, in his mind, thinks he's a starter."
Johnson is hopeful that reserve power forward Reggie Evans, who missed Tuesday night's game due to the flu, will be available on Friday night. Johnson said it was an isolated incident, and nobody else on the team has the flu. Evans is averaging 8.4 rebounds in just 19.6 minutes per game.