Charlie Villanueva's shots went up at practice Friday, and according to the hobbled Pistons forward, they were going in.

"You know it was going in," an upbeat Villanueva said after practicing with full contact for the first time since being placed on the inactive list in January.

He called it significant progress. Coach Lawrence Frank called it very encouraging. Even so, neither side would call when Villanueva would see game action again.

"I'm just taking it step by step," Villanueva said. "This is the first time I actually had a full day of practice, so we'll see how my ankle responds. The way it's feeling right now, it's feeling OK, so we'll see what happens."

The first two times Villanueva practiced with the team, he was limited to noncontact competition.

He has played only 6 minutes of two games this season, the last Jan. 4.

"Today I thought he took a big step forward," Frank said. "He looked very good out there, so it was encouraging."

The next two practices could determine when Villanueva returns.

"You've got the Lakers coming up on Tuesday," he said. "We've got two days of practice, and I'm going to utilize those days to see where my conditioning is at, see how I feel, and perhaps by (the end of this weekend), we might be able to do something."