Nene still feels a “sharp” pain in his right Achilles’ tendon, but he won’t let it prevent him from playing against the Orlando Magic on Monday, when the Wizards (8-9) attempt to win their fifth straight home game and reach .500 for the first time in more than four years.
“I don’t know how good I’m going to do,” Nene said, smiling after the morning shoot-around, “but I’ll be there.”
Nene sat out Friday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers but returned the next night against the Atlanta Hawks and recorded his second double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds in 36 minutes and helped the Wizards get a 108-101 victory. But his availability for the next game was brought into question as he hobbled out of the locker room, dragging his ailing right leg.
“It’s a sacrifice,” Nene said. “Nothing is easy. The pain is sharp. It’s hard to play, but if I can do anything to help my team, I’m going to do it. Sometimes, I need to sit down. Sometimes, skip shoot-around to feel better or come early and do treatment. That’s a sacrifice to help my team.”
The Wizards have struggled without Nene since acquiring him from Denver in March 2012. They are 0-3 this season and 7-31 overall when he is out of the lineup.
“Like I told him, he’s in pain but, ‘It’s your presence. You don’t have to go out there and give us 30 or 20 [points],’ ” John Wall said. “It’s your presence that makes the defense respect you.’ It makes it a lot easier for us so when we get trapped on a pick and you throw a pass to him, he’s making the right reads and finding other guys or he can finish at the basket.”
Marcin Gortat said “50 percent of Nene” is better than most. His influence was evident in the win over Atlanta, as Nene made a series of critical plays after the Wizards let an 18-point lead get chopped down to two points in the fourth quarter. He forced Jeff Teague into shooting an airball, blocked a DeMarre Carroll layup, drew a charge on Cartier Martin and rebounded a Gortat miss for a putback that put the Wizards ahead, 95-88.
“We all know how important he is,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “We can play through him. Without Bradley [Beal], we’re a little limited other than John of guys being able to create things off the dribble. You can do some of that through Nene at the elbows, in the post and create that, and he’s just so smart defensively. That’s the thing, he reads things. He’s so important for our team and the success we have. You take your top players off any team and you’re going to struggle a little bit. We understand his importance to us. He does, too.”
Nene also had three assists in the win over the Hawks, finding Wall for one of his two triples, and Martell Webster for two of his five. “Physically, he may not have it every night, but mentally he’s there,” Webster said. “He is a defensive presence. He is an attitude that we need to have. He’s an ultimate competitor. With your main big guy and your point guard with that competitive edge, it makes it easy to play up to the level that you’re playing at.”
With the Wizards playing just three games over the next 12 days, Nene expects that he will have enough time to let the pain subside. “The schedule is going to be more flexible to us, to do whatever we need to do,” Nene said. “And I think all the players are going to start feeling better. I think we’re going to have a couple of players back, too… But if I feel something else, yes, I need to be smart.”
For now, Nene is ready to play. “I was in worse position and I did last time, you know,” Nene said. “So, yeah.”