Josh Newman, SNYNets.comWhen Brook Lopez went down with a sprained right foot on Nov. 28, it was pretty clear the Nets would use kid gloves with the 7-footer and give him all the time he needed to get to 100 percent.
They did just that over 16 days and finally, on Friday, Lopez returned against the Detroit Pistons, but with a couple of stipulations. He had a 24-minute playing limit and for now, he probably wouldn't play both ends of a back-to-back.
With the Nets traveling to take on the Chicago Bulls just 24 hours after the Pistons game, that plan has apparently changed.
After Nets head coach Avery Johnson indicated during shootaround on Friday that Lopez wouldn't play both ends, Johnson met with team orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Riley Williams III, who has cleared Lopez to play back-to-back sets.
With that, Lopez started on Saturday at the Bulls, but with the same 24-minute playing limit.
On Friday against the Pistons, he scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds in 23:50 of a 107-105 double overtime win.
The Nets are undoubtedly happy to have Lopez gain that type of clearance as they are a different team with him in the lineup. With Lopez, they are 11-4, as opposed to 2-5 without him. During that recent 2-5 streak without Lopez, the Nets lost four straight games, their defensive numbers took a dive and the second unit struggled with Andray Blatche needing to move into the starting lineup to replace Lopez.
The initial plan of not playing both ends of a back-to-back just yet was understandable given the fact that the sprained right foot was Lopez's third right foot injury inside the last year.
Next up for the Nets after the Bulls is another back-to-back beginning Tuesday at home against the Utah Jazz and concluding Wednesday at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks.
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA