With the Wizards (0-5) one of just two remaining winless teams in the NBA and John Wall also injured, Nene admitted he feels pressure to return and help on the court, not just serve as some cheerleader or sage veteran passing along wisdom. But the desire to fix a problem that has plagued him for nearly 11 months outweighs the temptation to rush back.
“I want that thing to heal 100 percent, because I don’t want to shrink my career,” Nene said. “I need to take care of it right now. I want to finish the pain, because it is still painful. I try sometimes, like, ‘Hurry up,’ when I have physical therapy. That could be a mistake. I need to be true with myself and know this is a serious situation.”
Nene, 30, visited Mark S. Myerson, the medical director at the Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, last week and said he was told that he was “probably three weeks away.” When asked to elaborate on whether that meant he would play or begin practicing in three weeks, Nene hedged off a specific timeline, simply explaining how he continues to deal with soreness as a result of plantar fasciitis near the heel of his left foot.
For the first time, Nene spoke at length about how the problem began and the frustration he feels about the injury and with outsiders who don’t understand its severity.
“They have no clue,” Nene said, adding that he actually tore a ligament in the bottom of his foot and that another is irritated and causing more problems. “They think it’s simple pain.”
Nene said he started feeling discomfort in his left foot last December in Denver, “because I worked real hard during the lockout.” The culprit may have been “bad shoes,” he said, but he also felt obligated to keep playing through it after the Nuggets gave him a five-year, $65 million contract in free agency.
Denver shut him down for a few games in January — including a win in Washington — with a “bruised left heel” and was forced to give him an extended break after he played 22 minutes in Indiana and the problem spread to his left calf. Nene missed 10 consecutive games to rest and said he also received a cortisone shot to numb the pain.
“That make my bone weak and I don’t take enough time to recover,” Nene said of the shot. “Usually, you’re supposed to take three weeks, four weeks, I just took like 10 days.”
Nene returned to play five more games for Denver before the Wizards acquired him in a three-team trade that shipped out JaVale McGee and Nick Young. But the 6-foot-11 big man admitted that during his final months with the Nuggets, he rarely practiced, choosing to tax his body — and his foot — in games instead.