Jeff Green closing in on Nets’ return from foot injury

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Even the rare dose of bad news these days for the Nets includes traces of positivity.

Though valuable reserve forward Jeff Green will remain sidelined for Game 3 in Milwaukee on Thursday night as the Nets look to take a 3-0 series lead, his return appears close, maybe even imminent.

“Hope he’s back, if not Game 4, Game 5,” coach Steve Nash said over Zoom on Wednesday following practice. “But he’s definitely on the right track, and I think highly possible that he plays sooner rather than later.”

The 6-foot-8 Green, out with a plantar fascia strain in his left foot, said he feels better and is hopeful of a Game 4 return, as long as the progress he has been making continues. He is running and is working on cutting and changes of direction. He has been dealing with the issue even before the playoffs but aggravated it in a Game 2 rout of the Celtics in the opening-round series victory. He landed awkwardly after a dunk and strained it.

Jeff Green
Jeff Green
NBAE via Getty Images

This isn’t some minor injury, of course. Green described it as a badly sprained ankle in the bottom of your foot. He still feels discomfort when walking.

“The whole planting and explosion is something that just comes with it,” said the 34-year-old Green, who has yet to return to practice. “It’s been hard to really be me [with the injury] early on when I first did it. But I played through it during the year. … So, I am able to get back out there now and obviously run, but the cutting is something that hasn’t come back yet.”

The fact James Harden (hamstring) is out hasn’t changed Green’s urgency to return. Neither has the Nets’ commanding start to the series lessened his need to get back, and how well they have defended two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in his absence. Green — who averaged 11.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and shot 41.2 percent from deep during the regular season — has been doing everything he can to get back on the court.

“Like James always says, he always takes pride in being available for his teammates, and I’m the same way. And it’s painful being out,” Green said. “That’s why you see me on the sidelines [standing] up every play trying to be a voice from the sideline, but not physically being out there is tough. It’s hard. And I’ve been trying to find ways to use that energy that I always have to be on the sidelines, calling out plays, calling out what they’re trying to do or what I see, but it’s definitely tough.”

It may get easier for him — and the Nets — soon. Green made it sound like the pain of watching is worse than the pain in his left foot.

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