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Robin Lopez expected to return on Wednesday

Robin Lopez is expected to return on Wednesday after missing 14 games with a knee injury. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Phoenix Suns center Robin Lopez went through his first full practice Sunday morning since tearing ligaments in his left knee against the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 14.

After a positive showing, the third-year center is expected to make his return (and maybe start) against the Minnesota Timberwolves at home on Wednesday, according to The Arizona Republic.

“I think Robin’s probably going to go (Wednesday),” coach Alvin Gentry told The Republic. “We’ll see but he made a lot of progress. He had a good practice and doesn’t seem to have any pain or anything. The big thing for him is going to be the conditioning part of it. He seemed to have a little bounce back and things like that.

“I was pleasantly surprised because I thought he’d had about as much bounce as I’ve seen this season really.”

Not only is Lopez’s left knee at full strength, the right leg that’s given him trouble since last season is also much better.

The seven-footer pinched a nerve in his right leg as a result of a bulging disk in his back that kept him out of 31 games last season.

But with more time removed from the initial injury, the nerve damage has lessened, according to Lopez.

“The nerve damage down the right leg was kind of a lingering problem and, dating back to the back injury, takes a little while to heal,” Lopez said. “Obviously, there’s more distance between the injury now and it’s feeling better.”

Lopez said “there is no real problem with the knee really” and, after scrimmaging for 20 minutes on Sunday, he doesn’t feel like he’s “missed a step” due to the injury.

The 22-year-old was ineffective throughout the nine games he has played in this season, averaging 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in only 17.7 minutes per game. But Gentry’s comments and Lopez’s progress are certainly encouraging.

Although Earl Barron (3.2 points, 3.5 rebounds in 17 minutes per game) has done a respectable job in terms of rebounding and defense with Lopez mending, the Suns need their coveted seven-footer back in the lineup and producing.

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