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Kyrie Irving returns to Nets practice and will have his shoulder reevaluated next week

Nets point guard Kyrie Irving returned to practice for the first time since mid-November. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Cleared for contact, Kyrie Irving practiced with the Brooklyn Nets for the first time since being shut down with a right shoulder impingement in mid-November, according to The Athletic’s Alex Schiffer.

Irving met with assembled media in New York after participating in full at Thursday’s practice, including five-on-five scrimmaging. The 27-year-old five-time All-Star point guard told reporters that he planned to practice again on Friday before his shoulder is reevaluated next week, per ESPN’s Malika Andrews.

Asked if he might need surgery, Irving said, “I’m not trying to think about that right now,” per Schiffer.

Irving has not played since scoring 17 points on 20 shots over 35 minutes in a victory against the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 14. He originally suffered the injury in a loss to the Utah Jazz two days earlier. Irving averaged 28.5 points, 7.2 assists and 5.4 rebounds in 11 games for the Nets before the injury.

The Nets were 4-7 record when Irving went out. Backup point guard Spencer Dinwiddie helped them turn the season around, leading Brooklyn to a 16-13 record before the current seven-game losing streak dropped them back below .500. They are still safely in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said Irving’s return to practice came at a time when the Nets needed a morale boost, according to Andrews. A month ago, Atkinson expected Irving to practice within a week or two, but by Dec. 26 the team’s max-salaried free-agent signing had yet to be cleared for contact.

Irving spoke on Saturday for the first time since being sidelined. Via the New York Post’s Brian Lewis:

“The next progression was get a cortisone shot or you get arthroscopic surgery,” Irving said. “The cortisone shot lasts as long as it can. You either continue to get cortisone shots, which is obviously detrimental to your health in your muscles, or you go get arthroscopic surgery.

“It’s just about being able to go back out there after the right amount of rehab, the right amount of rest, recovery, and see what we can do for the rest of the season and then reevaluate after a few months.”

The question now is whether Irving should go through the rigors of playing on an injured shoulder and delay a potential surgery in order to chase a likely first-round playoff exit. It sounds like the alternative is a season-ending procedure that would keep him out until next training camp, when Kevin Durant is also expected to return from Achilles surgery after signing his own max contract in Brooklyn.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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