Brook Lopez is getting back in the game…
The 33-year-old Cuban-American professional basketball player and Milwaukee Bucks center who has been out with a back injury since opening night, will make his return to the lineup against the Utah Jazz on Monday night, the team announced.
Lopez’s return fortifies the Bucks’ front line as the franchise prepares for the Eastern Conference playoffs and the chance to defend their NBA championship.
Lopez had back surgery on December 2, and had been rehabilitating the injury until he was cleared to return to full contact in practice a week ago.
The Bucks are outside of the league’s top 10 in defensive efficiency for the first time in coach Mike Budenholzer‘s tenure, and part of the reason is that they’ve been playing without Lopez’s rebounding and rim protection.
Milwaukee is 42-26 and second in the Eastern Conference behind the Miami Heat. Lopez was third in the NBA a year ago with 163 defensive box-outs, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
He also ranked second in field goal percentage allowed at the rim among 72 players to defend 200 shots, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Only the Golden State Warriors‘ Draymond Green (47.3%) rated better than Lopez (49.3%).
Lopez averaged 12.3 points, five rebounds and 1.5 blocks a year ago.