The Washington Wizards will be without their backup center for the start of the postseason.
On Wednesday, Coach Scott Brooks announced that Ian Mahinmi will miss the team’s regular season finale in Miami, as well as upcoming games, as he deals with a strained left calf. Mahinmi underwent an MRI exam that revealed swelling. He will be evaluated again in 7 to 10 days.
Although the NBA has not yet released the playoff schedule, the evaluation timeline could keep Mahinmi sidelined for at least the opening three games of the first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks.
“Hopefully he feels better then, but you never know,” Brooks said. “But he’s definitely going to miss the first couple of games [of the playoffs].”
Mahinmi has endured an injury-plagued first season with the Wizards. Although last summer the 30-year-old Mahinmi was brought in as Marcin Gortat’s backup, the Wizards (49-32) have played more games without him.
In October, Mahinmi had surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus in his left knee. Later, he developed soreness in the right knee after completing six weeks of rehabilitation from the procedure. In late December, Mahinmi missed six more weeks after flying to Florida to receive platelet-rich plasma injections on both knees. Since his recovery, Mahinmi has appeared in 31 games and averaged 5.6 points and 4.4 rebounds.
“We’ll definitely miss Ian because he was actually playing his best basketball, defensively he was giving us a very good rim protector and pick-and-roll player,” Brooks said. “I’m still confident in the group. We’ll still play hard and play well.”
Mahinmi’s absence will force more minutes on to Gortat, the 33-year-old starting center who has proven his durability and tonight is expected to start his 82nd game for the second time in three seasons. Also, Jason Smith and Markieff Morris should be expected to see minutes in the backup five spot against Atlanta.
“We’ve played well without him,” Brooks said of Mahinmi. “Obviously we’re a better team with him, but we’ve won a lot of games without him. Hopefully, he comes back.”
In an effort to preserve more key players, the Wizards will sit starters John Wall, Bradley Beal and Morris on Wednesday against the Miami Heat. Otto Porter Jr. returns to the starting lineup after missing the previous two games but will play roughly 16 minutes, said Brooks.
Although Beal and Morris previously expressed an interest in playing against the Heat, in an effort to secure 50 wins for the first time since the 1978-79 season, Brooks had the last word.
“I usually don’t have one-sided conversations but this was a one-sided conversation,” Brooks said. “I didn’t give them a chance to talk and looking at their facial expressions, I’m sure they were thinking some things that probably would’ve been inappropriate for them to tell their head coach.”
On Wednesday morning, Beal reiterated a desire to play but understood and accepted Brooks’s demand to sit.
“No player wants to sit down. Everybody loves to play. We’re all young. I feel like we’re chasing after something but we’re still confident in the guys who are going to step a foot out here. I would definitely love to play but I understand Coach’s logic behind it. I’m cool with it. It’s not like I really have a choice so to speak, so I just control what I control and it is what it is.”