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Sunday, December 9, 2012
Updated: December 10, 9:48 AM ET
Brook Lopez still sidelined

By Mike Mazzeo
Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets coach Avery Johnson admitted Sunday that center Brook Lopez is recovering slower from a mild right foot sprain than the team initially expected.

Lopez missed his fifth straight game on Sunday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. He is still not ready to practice despite suffering the injury on Nov. 28.

"I think it's approaching that point now, because obviously I come to these press conferences and I'm basically giving you the same answer. And it's not like I'm telling you something that's not the truth, but it's a little bit slower than what we thought," Johnson said. "We'll see if we catch some good fortune here soon where he can heal enough to a point where he can practice and play in the game."

Lopez did work out Sunday, Johnson said.

"We'll see where he is tomorrow, whether he can practice and get through the full practice; whether he can participate in the non-contact part of practice, which still involves some cutting and moving; or whether he can't practice at all," Johnson said. "And then once that happens, then we'll take it to the next day and play that game, and see what part of shootaround ... he hasn't really gone through a full shootaround or practice yet, so we don't feel comfortable putting him in the game. He's just not ready."

Is there a chance Lopez could return against the New York Knicks on Tuesday night?

"Could be a chance, but again, like I've been telling you guys, with a guy with a foot history like this, he's gotta be able to get through a practice, recover well, go through a shootaround and then have no issues in the afternoon, and play (a game)," Johnson said.

"But the challenging part is we're approaching a stretch after Monday where we're not gonna have a lot of practice time. Then, at some point, we're going to put him in some simulated 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 drills since we're not gonna have official practices and see where he is and see how he recovers from there. So we have a plan, but until we can get him in a practice, and he can go through a practice, it would be irresponsible on our part just to throw him out there in a game."

Lopez, 24, is averaging 18.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 14 games for the Nets (11-7). They are 1-3 without him in the lineup, and have struggled defensively. During their current three-game losing streak, they've given up an average of 109.3 points.

In four starts in place of Lopez, Andray Blatche has averaged 18.8 points and 10.8 rebounds, but just 0.3 blocks.

The Nets started Reggie Evans at power forward instead of Kris Humphries on Sunday night. Humphries started the first 18 games of the season and averaged 8.1 points and 8.1 rebounds.

It is unknown why Johnson decided to make the change, though Blatche and Evans have played well together coming off the bench.

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.