Once he sat down late in the first quarter of the Wizards’ 113-102 season-opening loss Wednesday to the Detroit Pistons, Nene reached for his left calf and called for head athletic trainer Eric Waters. Nene and Waters then headed for the locker room, where the Brazilian big man had his calf taped.
Nene returned in the second quarter and played another 20 minutes, finishing with 12 points and three rebounds. A day later, Nene arrived early to get treatment on his sore calf and sat out Thursday’s practice but Coach Randy Wittman expects to have him available for the Wizards’ home opener Friday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.
“I think he’s fine,” Wittman said. “He’s a little sore and I don’t know if he got kicked … I know it happened early in the game. But I don’t foresee anything there.”
The importance of having a healthy Nene on the floor has been well-documented, with the Wizards going 7-28 without him since making a trade deadline deal with Denver for JaVale McGee in March 2012. Nene used the offseason to rest and get healthy after battling plantar fasciitis for his first 1 1/2 seasons in Washington.
The Wizards acquired Marcin Gortat from Phoenix, a move that was expected to move Nene back over to his natural position of power forward. But with Gortat only having three practices, Nene started at center and was matched up against 20-year-old Andre Drummond, a bulky, athletic 7-footer. Drummond had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Pistons.
Nene didn’t openly complain about being hurt after the game, but he was disappointed with the team’s performance.
“It’s a good wake-up call for the next game. Prepare yourself,” Nene said. “We have a couple mistakes. We need to fix the help on defense, box out, the reaction. We lost a little bit of concentration. And in the third quarter we try to play physical with them but we miss a lot of rebounds, a lot of help. Made it harder. A couple things we could control.”
When asked about Friday’s home opener at Verizon Center, Nene said, “I know the fans are waiting for this moment.”