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Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez nearing return from back injury

Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez (11), shown July 1, 2021, underwent back surgery in December and has been out since. File Photo by Matt Marton/EPA-EFE
Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez (11), shown July 1, 2021, underwent back surgery in December and has been out since. File Photo by Matt Marton/EPA-EFE

March 4 (UPI) -- Milwaukee Bucks veteran center Brook Lopez has been cleared to practice as a full participant for the first time since having back surgery in December.

Lopez went through a light workout on the court before Friday's game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. He has been limited to individual workouts recently, but he will now advance to five-on-five scrimmages with contact.

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The Bucks have remained optimistic that Lopez, who hasn't played since opening night, will be able to return before the end of the regular season.

"It's another good, positive step for him in his return to play," Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters Friday.

After starting 70 games for the Bucks last season, Lopez has been out of the lineup since the Bucks' Oct. 19 opener against the Brooklyn Nets. He notched eight points, five rebounds and three blocks in that game.

The Bucks don't have many open dates for practice over the next few weeks. Budenholzer said Lopez likely will begin practicing with the franchise's NBA G League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd, for extra reps.

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"It's one of the great things about having the G League, having the team so close," Budenholzer said. "I think Brook is going to see a little bit of everything over the course of the next however long it takes for him to get quality scrimmaging and quality 5-on-5 and prepare to return."

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