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Report: Charlie Villanueva practices, could play next week

Detroit Pistons power forward Charlie Villanueva says he is getting healthier by the day, and according to the Detroit Free Press, he could return as early as next week. Edited to add: However, it seems that there is some dissension in the beat-writing ranks, as MLive has their own Villanueva story that says his return is uncertain.

Villanueva, who is in the third year of a five-year deal and is making about $7.5 million, has only played six minutes total this season due to a troublesome right ankle.

He was largely immobile for two months and at one point thought season-ending surgery would be needed, but he's been feeling better and adding to his work load. On Monday, Villanueva practices with his teammates for the first time in a long time.

"I'm feeling real good; I went through the first 20 minutes of practice, non-contact, and felt pretty good," said Villanueva, who has not played since a Jan. 4 loss against Chicago. "I'm taking it day by day from now on. I'm not trying to speed things up. I'm just working my way back into things."

Villanueva's return could be a big boost for Detroit. The Pistons are weak on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, and while Charlie V. doesn't give you much on the defensive end he could greatly help the Pistons anemic offensive production.

While Villanueva often gets lumped into fellow free agent disappointment Ben Gordon because both came to the team on big-money deals in the same year, Villanueva has been a much better offensive player during the duo's time in Motown.

Last season, Villanueva had a career-high true shooting percentage thanks largely in part to a 38 percent mark from long range. While that's not going to get him in the 3-point contest, it does keep the defense honest. And as a power forward, Villanueva greatly helps stretch the floor and open up driving lanes for Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight. Perhaps it could even help Greg Monroe's ability to make shots from 1 feet away from the basket because with Villanueva at the perimeter, an opposing big man is often unable to provide help defense.

And it would also allow Jonas Jerebko to play more small forward, giving him offensive options other than parking himself on the 3-point line. While shooting three 3-point attempts per game, JJ is only connecting on a dismal 29 percent of tries, and less fruitless attempts from three for JJ means better offensive efficiency for the Pistons.