Almost a week after he limped out of the Palace of Auburn Hills with a strained left calf, Nene was back at practice, running the floor and taking set shots afterward. Nene’s status for Wednesday’s game against the surprising Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center remains unclear but the Brazilian big man hopes that he will be available.
“All those things are going to be in the coach’s hands and in the trainer’s hands to decide if I got to go or not. I think I can help now. How? We’ll see,” Nene said. “I’m going to try, see how things are going. If I feel something sharp, I need to stop. That’s what the doctor said. If I feel something sharp, I need to stop. But I feel okay after practice.”
Nene had an MRI on Monday which revealed that the injury wasn’t as serious as he feared. He still admitted that he felt a “sharp” pain in his leg but added that missing the past two games was necessary for his recovery.
“I was smart to take the break because if I didn’t stop I could ruin my Achilles,” Nene said. “This time I give a chance to improve and I improve a lot on the injury but I still feel [sore] over there a little bit. The good thing is I was able to practice. But the only thing is the speed and the explosion is not there.”
Trevor Booker also practiced after jamming his finger in Miami and John Wall also hasn’t had any more problems with his back since experiencing some spasms on Friday in the Wizards’ 109-102 loss to Philadelphia.
Coach Randy Wittman expects to have Booker but he won’t make any predictions about Nene. “He practiced, so that’s encouraging. We’ve got to see how he responds. He got a good workout in. We’ll get a good gauge of that at shootaround,” Wittman said. “Nene, probably for sure is game-time [decision], but we’ll see how he reacts. Book is going to be fine if I had to guess. Now I’ve been way wrong before.”
Ever since Emeka Okafor went down with a herniated disk in his neck, Nene has dreaded playing center but newly acquired big man Marcin Gortat came off the bench in the season opener against Detroit. Gortat has started the past two games and recorded a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds on Sunday against Miami. In Tuesday’s practice, the 6-foot-11 Nene got to share the floor Gortat while playing his preferred position of power forward. “I was in that position right now because of all the health issues I had in the past,” Nene said. “But I played the five. I can’t start playing the whole game at the five.”
Wittman is aware of Nene’s disdain for center but believes that he won’t be able to avoid playing there. “He’s still going to have to play some,” Wittman said. “With Marcin here now he’ll be able to play some at the four. You’re really, more times than not, when you’re playing the five position guarding a four anyway. There’s not a lot of big bruisers out there anymore that you have to worry about banging with.”
The Wizards (0-3) played one of the biggest front lines in the NBA in the opener against Detroit, which features Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. Nene said he started to experience discomfort in the first quarter of the game after landing awkwardly after missing a jumper. He had his leg taped and returned to finish with 12 points and three rebounds.
“My calf was a really tight,” Nene said. “Before the trade happened, remember what I said about my body? My body was feeling to play the five position. I said it before things happened.”
But Nene is starting to feel better. “It’s okay. The good thing is, we have good news. We prevent the worse and now I came back in my routine, to able to practice and play for my team,” Nene said. “There’s sharp pain, when I try to push myself, just a little bit. That’s why I say. I can’t be crazy and try to use the whole speed and the whole explosion because I don’t have that thing yet. I just need to calm down. I need to do it at my pace. Give my best. Try to help.”
Nene experienced some pain in his shoulder and back during the preseason but felt like he was invigorated when the regular season began. If he is able to play, Nene wasn’t sure if he would need a minutes limit.
“It’s not about minutes. A lot of things, when it happen, you can’t control,” he said.