After coming off the bench for the past 12 games, Nene has returned to the starting lineup as the Wizards attempt to break out of a recent slide. Washington went 7-9 with Trevor Booker starting at power forward while Nene recovered from tendinitis in his right Achilles’ heel.
Coach Randy Wittman said last week that he would consider changing the minute limitations for Nene and Bradley Beal after they completed a stretch of four games in five nights against Houston. Before the game, Wittman said, “Both he and Nene are the same.”
Wittman failed to mention the big change. Nene had been adhering to a 24-minute time restriction but Booker has also seen his playing time reduced. In the past three games, the 6-foot-8 Booker never played more than 18 minutes and was averaging just 4.3 points and 4.3 rebounds as the Wizards went 1-2.
The Wizards bench improved with Nene serving as a facilitator for the reserves but the team has lost five of its past seven games and now trails the Chicago Bulls by one game in the Eastern Conference standings. Washington has trailed by at least 25 points in each of its past four losses and Wittman doesn’t want that to continue.
“We sometimes go through and take some shortcuts. We can’t play that way. All of sudden, you take a shortcurt here and you’re down, six, 10, 12 and you try to get back to doing what you’re capable of doing,” Wittman said. “I give them credit, we came back from 25 down against Houston and took a five-point lead. But we can’t afford to have those lapses like that in a game. we’ve got to play one way, one style, you get beat, you get beat and you move on. You get better even with a defeat. You’ve got to give yourself an opportunity.”
The fifth-place Bulls (17-18) have won five straight and eight of 10 despite losing former MVP Derrick Rose and trading all-star forward Luol Deng. Rose is out with a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee and also missed a preseason matchup with the Wizards in the preseason, when the teams traveled to Brazil.
“Derrick is a cool guy and good friend. It’s tough times that he’s going through, but I think he’s holding his head high like he’s supposed to and just trying to get himself prepared to come back and just play basketball,” John Wall said. “You’re still playing against a Bulls team that’s different without an MVP in this league. You’ve still got to respect them as a team. They a team that’s always going to compete. They’re going to be a competitive team, they’re always going to play hard. That’s one thing Coach [Tom] Thibodeau installed in his team. They make it tough for guys to score against them. This is a big game and big challenge for us.”
(TV: Comcast SportsNet. Radio: WFED-1500).
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