Once thought to be hoping for a return in the second round, Wizards backup center Ian Mahinmi is now optimistic he can get back before the Wizards-Hawks first round playoff series is over.

With the series locked at 2-2, Mahinmi believes he is not far from coming back from the calf strain that has sidelined him since April 10 when he landed awkwardly on his left leg against the Detroit Pistons. Mahinmi has since had an MRI that revealed swelling. And step by step, he has been working on getting back.

"The plan is for me to come back in this first round. I can't tell you exactly when. But that's the main goal to me is to come back as soon as possible," he said.

Mahinmi said the final steps will include him playing full speed in practice. Lately he has been seen shooting from close range and working on post moves at practice and before games. Mahinmi admitted, though, that he's "still a little bit limited."

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Head coach Scott Brooks cautioned that Mahinmi still hasn't taken some important steps.

"He hasn't had a shootaround with us. He hasn't had a practice with us. So, he's definitely out tomorrow," Brooks said. "Do I think he can play in Game 6? I doubt it, but you never know."

That said, this is represents good news for the Wizards, who are having trouble staying out of foul trouble and could use some depth, as well as Mahinmi's defensive prowess down low against Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard.

 

"Progress is good. I'm a little bit ahead of schedule. I've been doing good and getting better every day. I'm on the right track," he said.

Mahinmi 30, missed 51 of the Wizards' 82 regular season games with various knee injuries dating back to preseason when he had surgery to repair a partially torn left meniscus on Oct. 15 during the preseason. He signed a four-year, $64 million free agent deal to join the Wizards in July.

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