Brook Lopez returns to practice

NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez participated in the team's 5-on-5 practice Monday and will be a game-time decision Tuesday against the New York Knicks.

Nets coach Avery Johnson acknowledged, however, that Lopez may not play.

"We can't treat Brook like he's a savior, because right now the chances of him playing tomorrow are not very high," Johnson said. "That's why the rest of the guys that are going to be in uniform, for sure, we gotta play much better."

Lopez has missed the past five games due to a mild right foot sprain. Johnson told reporters that the 24-year-old has taken longer to recover than the team initially expected.

"This is his first time getting out there to practice," Johnson said. "He's not quite his old self, but for the first time getting out there, he did OK."

Johnson has stated that Lopez needs to go through a full-contact practice and recover before he can play in a game.

"We gotta see how he recovers and how he feels in the morning," Johnson said. "We're not even thinking about tomorrow night right now. We've just got to treat him the rest of the day, let him get in another workout with our strength and conditioning coach, and we gotta see if he's good enough to even go through shootaround tomorrow.

"Then we'll take it from there."

Lopez has been out since initially suffering the injury on Nov. 28. He underwent a battery of tests -- including a precautionary MRI -- that showed the injury was unrelated to the two right foot fractures he suffered last season.

"I feel good," Lopez said Monday. "It was great to go through an entire practice. I wasn't sure I'd be able to, not necessarily because of what happened to my foot, but because of conditioning."

The Nets have struggled without Lopez, going 1-4 in the games he has missed.

"It was good to have him out there," Johnson said. "His teammates had a lot more energy in practice today. We're a really good team with him when he's playing and playing [at] a high level."

Lopez, who signed a four-year, $60 million contract extension with the Nets in the offseason, is averaging 18.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.