Nene removed an ice bag from his right knee after the Wizards lost to Golden State on March 23 and shook his head as he spoke to head athletic trainer Eric Waters. A few minutes before, Nene had complained about the taxing, physical grind of battling in the low post.
Two days later, Nene decided that he needed to rest before the injury became more serious. Nene sat out four games and felt justified about his decision when he watched replays of Louisville guard Kevin Ware breaking his right leg in horrific fashion on Sunday in the NCAA tournament.
“You saw what happened in college, the little boy,” Nene said. “I told them: ‘I don’t feel safe to jump with people around you. I don’t feel comfortable.’ And that example happen and it was tragic. But it was a example. You need to feel fine to play basketball. If you not okay, you need to sit down. That was a big example.”
Nene was still dealing with some swelling in his right knee after participating in Monday’s light practice but said afterward that he would attempt to return when the Wizards host the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday at Verizon Center.
“There is a chance to play, yes,” Nene said. “I don’t know how many minutes I’m going to play, but yes, I’m going to try to play [Tuesday] to see how I feel.”
The Wizards (27-46) split the past four games with Nene sidelined, defeating Memphis and Toronto at home and losing to Oklahoma City and Orlando on the road. They are 3-17 without Nene this season and Coach Randy Wittman expects to have the Brazilian big man back in uniform soon if he is unable to play against the Bulls.
“I’m anticipating that,” Wittman said.
Nene is averaging 12.9 points and 6.9 rebounds this season, which was delayed while he recovered from plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Since returning in late November, Nene had also suffered a sore left shoulder and dealt with soreness in his left knee as well. Nene had been playing with soreness in his right knee for about four games before it reached the point that it became unbearable.
“I have to sit down,” Nene said. “My knee got a little swollen, but I just need to get it stronger, my exercise, my physical therapy and see how they go. I understand, I’m a young old guy and I had a serious surge in my knee. To play at a high level, physical in the post, my body is feeling that.”
When John Wall, Nene and Bradley Beal are in uniform, the Wizards have gone 14-7 and outscored opponents by a total of 77 points in the 255 minutes that they’ve shared the floor, but the team hasn’t had the trio in uniform enough to make a serious postseason run. Wall missed 33 games with a stress injury in his left knee and Beal has missed 18 games with injuries to his back, right wrist and left ankle. After Beal aggravated his ankle injury in Phoenix on March 20, Nene joked that Beal has to “tape his ankles better.”
“We all know very well, we got to take care of our bodies. That’s the main thing me and Nene said,” Wall said. “We got to make sure everybody is fully healthy. You don’t want to come back with the same stuff we had to go through this season.”
Nene plans to rest for most of the summer after playing for the Brazilian national team during the Olympics last offseason, despite a nagging foot injury. But he also wants the Wizards to continue their improved play in recent weeks.
“The way we going to finish that’s what matter and we going to try to finish strong, try to win the most we can, to give the confidence to our players and be ready for the next season,” Nene said.