Wizards’ Nene making progress, still expected to return in April

I could be doing this soon. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
I could be doing this soon. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

The Wizards returned to Washington after a difficult road trip but were greeted to a welcome sight: Nene moving around without crutches.

Four weeks into his recovery from a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, Nene is making progress and continues to target an early-April return, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Coach Randy Wittman said Nene is increasing his workload and is currently running on the anti-gravity treadmill.

“He’s doing good. He’s progressing well,” Wittman said. “He’s moving in the right direction. It’s four weeks. No setbacks, everything is moving good. We’re encouraged with that.”

If the knee continues to heal and regain strength, a person close to Nene said that the Brazilian big man could actually begin practicing some time next week. “That’s the game plan,” the person said.

Wearing shorts and a T-shirt, Nene made his way from the Wizards’ locker room to the weight room on Tuesday afternoon without any noticeable limp after his teammates completed practice in preparation with the Phoenix Suns.

The Wizards (36-34) have gone 8-6 since Nene went down with his left knee injury on Feb. 22 in Cleveland. He was expected to be out approximately six weeks, which would make his return to be somewhere around April 9 against Charlotte, with five games left in the regular season.

Nene is averaging 14.2 points and 5.8 rebounds and the team is 21-16 with the Brazilian big man in the starting lineup. Trevor Booker is averaging 7.3 points and 6.1 rebounds starting in place of Nene and Drew Gooden has also helped fill the void by averaging 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds off the bench.

Washington is outscoring opponents, 103.8-102.1, while shooting 46.9 percent from the field over the past 14 games.

Swingman Trevor Ariza was forced to leave practice just before conclusion after developing tendinitis in his right Achilles’ but Wittman didn’t seem overly concerned.

“I don’t anticipate anything bad there,” Wittman said.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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