LEXINGTON, Ky. — John Wall will make his emotional return to Rupp Arena on Saturday, more than three years after he left Kentucky to become the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. But as the Wizards prepare to play the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night, the team is also looking to welcome back Nene, who missed the previous two games dealing with a family matter in his native Brazil.
At the morning shootaround, Nene said he was hoping to “run up the floor” and “get a good sweat” after not playing since the Wizards lost to Chicago last week in Rio de Janeiro. The Wizards have just three preseason games remaining, with the Pelicans, Detroit and Cleveland.
“The next three, he’ll be ready to go,” Coach Randy Wittman said of Nene. “It’s good to have him back. Obviously, he’s a big part of what we do.”
Reserve guard Garrett Temple, wearing a wrap on his right elbow, also said he planned to play after missing the Wizards’ 98-89 loss against New York because of an infection caused by a cut. Nene and Temple both practiced in full on Friday and made it through shootaround without any problems.
Wittman said Temple probably could’ve played against the Knicks but he wanted to sit him for precautionary reasons. Eric Maynor sat out against Miami with a sore left Achilles’ but also rested rather put than himself at risk. “Any time a player has a concern like that, with the history we have here,” Wittman said, before smiling and stopping.
Kevin Seraphin had 11 points with seven rebounds and three blocks in the Wizards’ loss to New York but he will likely move back to a bench role with Nene back in the fold.
“It’s great to have him,” Wall said of Nene, who was among the 10 Wizards players to attend Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness festivities at Rupp Arena the night before. “Missing him the last few games is big for us, but it gave us the opportunity [to see] what you might have to do if he’s injured, or he gets sick or something, or gets in foul trouble.”
With his full complement of players – other than the already injured Emeka Okafor (neck), Chris Singleton (foot) and Otto Porter (hip) – Wittman wants to see his team take some strides over the final three exhibitions. The season begins on Oct. 30 against Detroit at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Aside from the Miami win and brief stretches against Brooklyn, Chicago and New York, Wittman hasn’t seen enough quality play from his team, which is 1-3.
“We’ve had four games here where it’s pretty black and white,” he said. “Where we play the way we’ve got to play. We’ve got to play that way if we’re going to win. Now, if we don’t want to win, then we can play the other way. But, it’s pretty black and white through the first four games how we have to play. And they’ve got to see that and we’ve got to all buy into that.”