Nene has been out since August because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot but was back on the practice court on Friday, working on five-on-five, half-court drills with his Wizards teammates for the first time.
His return to practice, no matter how limited, was a welcome sight for a team in search of its first win and any sign of hope.
“Absolutely. A step in the right direction,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “We haven’t had any setbacks with either John [Wall] or him. And as long as we keep moving in that direction, it’s positive. Very positive.”
Wittman said he had “no idea” when Nene will be able to play in a game and the Wizards still haven’t provided a timetable.
“Took another step forward,” Wittman said. “He looked good. He was on the floor.”
Last week in Indiana, Nene said he would be cautious about coming back too soon since has been dealing with his foot problem for nearly 11 months. He has been traveling with the team, closely observing the team through practices and games and frustrated that he has been unable to help.
“I know it is a slow process,” Nene said last week. “To be around the group, see travel and see them practice and to know they are having fun right there, it make pressure on me.”
After Friday’s practice, Nene had a bag of ice on his left knee and spoke with teammate Kevin Seraphin. A.J. Price said just having Nene back on the court raised the level of practice.
“It would be huge,” Price said when asked how having Nene back would help the team. “Just his presence out there today for the few things that we had him in there, you could see the difference. It was night and day. It would be good to have him out there.”
Watching the Wizards struggle in his absence has been difficult for Nene. “It’s hard,” he said, “but just beginning of the season, we’re going to have great momentum. We just need to stick together. Keep fighting.”