Washington Wizards center Nene was sitting on a folding chair with ice on his right knee and left thigh near the end of practice this afternoon at Verizon Center. He gingerly walked up the stairs outside into the hallway by the locker room, joined his teammates to sign basketballs and jerseys to be donated to charities, and briefly spoke to the media.
Two days earlier with the Wizards desperate for a win, Nene unexpectedly participated in his first game in more than three months. Although the outcome was a 101-100 loss to the Atlanta Hawks after officials ruled Martell Webster’s layup that would have won the game came after the buzzer, Nene’s presence infused confidence throughout the team, especially considering he played with multiple ailments.
“Nothing’s changed,” said Nene, who until Wednesday had not played in an organized game since Aug. 8 as part of the Brazilian national team in the London Olympics. “Now I have news. My quad is sore. I tried to compensate on my left because my left is my strong leg. My quad’s a little sore. It’s going to take a while.”
Nene played 19 minutes 43 seconds against the Hawks, scoring 12 points and shooting 8 for 10 from the foul line. Wittman said on Wednesday that he will continue to regularly monitor Nene’s minutes until he’s at full health, or at least as close to it as possible. In the immediate future, Nene’s ideal amount of playing time will be 16 to 20 minutes.
Nene’s prolonged game inactivity stemmed from aggravating plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the Olympics. His appearance in Wednesday’s game came after just one full, hour-long practice since that time, and although he informed reporters of his intention to play, he did not relay the information to Wittman.
The two spoke during pregame warmups at Philips Arena regarding the breakdown in communication, and Nene entered in the first quarter with the Wizards trailing by eight points.
“I’ve got to be careful,” Wittman said of Nene’s playing time. “Hey, it’s hard. The impact that he has on our team and how he helps our other players especially from an offensive standpoint, we’ve got to be smart.”