Monday night is going to be full of big returns from back injuries that could play a major role in the NBA playoffs in both conferences.
The Golden State Warriors will play their first game of the season with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson healthy at the same time, as Green makes his return after nearly two months on the shelf with a back injury against the Wizards at the Chase Center in San Francisco. On Sunday night, word emerged from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Bucks center Brook Lopez would likewise be making his return from a back injury, one that has kept him out of every game since opening night and required surgery, as the Bucks face the Jazz in Utah.
ESPN Sources: Three months after back surgery, Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez will return to lineup vs. the Utah Jazz on Monday (ESPN, 10 PM ET). Lopez, out since opening night, should make an impact for a defense outside of top 10 for first time under coach Mike Budenholzer.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 14, 2022
The team made the news official shortly after.
While not quite the name Draymond is, Lopez’s importance to the Bucks has been clear this season as they’ve had to navigate life without him, seeing their defensive rating dip considerably in his absence. Lopez’s presence in the paint unlocks so much of what they want to do in terms of being aggressive on the perimeter, knowing if they get beaten off the dribble Lopez is always there as a second line of protection at the rim, and allowing Giannis to be a secondary roamer rather than having to serve as the primary rim protector.
Getting Lopez back now with a month left in the season will hopefully allow him to work his way back into full game speed by the time the playoffs start and the Bucks begin their title defense in earnest against a number of serious contenders in the East.