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Brook Lopez Injury: Nets Expect Center To Return By Early February

Brook Lopez could return by early February from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot, according to sources with the New Jersey Nets. Lopez reportedly suffered the injury during Wednesday's preseason game against the New York Knicks. The timetable would have him missing roughly over a third of the team's season due to the lockout-shortened schedule.

More importantly though, a February return would put Lopez back on the court before the league's March 15 trade deadline. Lopez has been mentioned as a hypothetical trade piece in deals that could land Dwight Howard in New Jersey. If Lopez holds to the timetable, potential suitors would have about a month to evaluate the young center.

Of course, some are skeptical that the Lopez will be able to make a February return, notably ESPN's John Hollinger. Foot injuries do have a tendency to linger, especially on bigger bodies, so it's safe to say the Lopez' recovery will be closely monitored by several parties.

For more on Lopez and the Nets, head over to the SB Nation blog NetsDaily.