Nets' Brook Lopez to play Sunday

New Jersey Nets center Brook Lopez did not play Saturday night against the Chicago Bulls, but will start Sunday night and make his season debut against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Prudential Center, the team announced.

Lopez, 23, who has missed the entire season with a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot, could play as much as one half on Sunday, according to the team.

The plan is for Lopez to sit out Monday night when the Nets visit the New York Knicks, coach Avery Johnson told reporters. Lopez will be back in the lineup against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.

Lopez was injured Dec. 21 in the Nets' final preseason game against the Knicks and underwent surgery two days later.

The Nets have struggled mightily without Lopez, a post presence who averaged a team-high 20.4 points per game last season.

Lopez had been extremely durable, not missing a game in the first three seasons of his career.

Lopez had been discussed as the centerpiece of a potential blockbuster trade involving Magic center Dwight Howard. The Nets could revisit talks with Orlando before the March 15 trade deadline in an effort to land Howard before he likely opts out of his contract and becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Getting Howard likely would enable the Nets to keep All-Star point guard Deron Williams, who has said he intends to opt out at season's end, but has reiterated his hope of remaining with the franchise when the Nets move to Brooklyn next season, assuming they can put the right pieces around him.

Lopez is in the final year of his rookie contract and is making $3.1 million this season. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2011-12 campaign.

The Nets have been decimated by injuries this season and have been forced to start an NBA-high 15 different lineups. Small forward Shawne Williams (sore left foot and knee, sprained left shoulder) is out indefinitely and is being evaluated. Center Mehmet Okur (lower back) and guard Jordan Farmar (strained right groin) are out until after the All-Star break.

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.