Charlie Villanueva strolled into the locker room before Friday's game against the Kings, smiling as he prepared to change from street clothes into basketball gear.

Why so upbeat?

The Pistons forward believes he's close to returning.

"I'm feeling good, I've made major improvements over the past couple weeks," Villanueva said about an ankle injury he suffered before training camp.

His improvement is a stark contrast to a statement released by team officials two weeks ago, which suggested his right ankle soreness be remedied by "a few weeks of partial ankle immobilization in an attempt to alleviate soreness and discomfort."

Villanueva has played in two games, totaling six minutes, and hasn't played since Jan. 4. He hopes to be back after next weekend's All-Star break, and says he's willing to do anything to make himself a part of coach Lawrence Frank's rotation.

"I haven't really played the whole season, so of course I'll do whatever it takes to get some minutes because I do want to play," Villanueva said.

The improvement comes as a bit of a shock, just as it was when Villanueva received the news he would be out for an extended time. A nagging injury turned out to be something worse, and there was no initial timetable when he started missing games.

"It's frustrating, especially when I found out about the injury," he said. "The fact I was gonna be out for a long period of time. I've come to accept it. I'm getting better every day."