Once his left foot landed on the left foot of Milwaukee Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo at the end of the first quarter on Friday night, Washington Wizards swingman Martell Webster knew he was done for the rest of the game. Webster immediately reached for his left ankle, writhing in pain and pounding the hardwood with his hand, then limped off the floor with the assistance of head athletic trainer Eric Waters and injured teammate Kevin Seraphin.
“I could’ve walked off myself,” Webster said a day later. “I knew I couldn’t go back in there and play, so it was no point in me trying to walk it off and see how it actually was.”
Wizards big man Nene didn’t hesitate to walk off the court once the sharp pain in his right heel became too much to bear in the third period, heading directly to the locker room with Waters trailing. Nene has been battling problems in his right calf, Achilles’ tendon and foot since the season opener.
“I can’t support the pain. Everybody saw me limping,” Nene said. “I tried to do my best but I can’t be crazy. And I was scared to have something worse for my Achilles’. I need to step back and I need to walk away a little bit.”
Entering the game against Milwaukee, the Wizards’ spirits were at a high point, with the team winning seven of nine. But Washington (9-10) exited Friday night with three losses — a game and two starters — after a horrible performance against the team with the NBA’s worst record.
“Just can’t catch a break,” point guard John Wall said Saturday, reiterating his comments from the night before. “And it’s been like that since I’ve been here. We haven’t caught a break.”
Webster and Nene didn’t practice on Saturday but were the last two players to leave Verizon Center, sticking around for nearly two hours afterward to receive treatment and rehab their ailing limbs. Webster originally sprained his ankle in October and was upset that it was aggravated just as it was getting better. He felt better when he woke up Saturday, didn’t notice any bruising and was able to shoot set shots off his tippy-toes with his ankle heavily taped.
Webster hopes to return for the Wizards on Monday against the Denver Nuggets, but Nene didn’t sound so optimistic about trying to rush back to play against the team for which he played his first 91 / 2 seasons.
“I don’t care about Denver. I care about myself. I care about my team. It’s not about Denver. It’s the same as other teams. If you guys want to create something huge, that’s not going to happen,” Nene said. “I been suffering this thing the last few weeks. I want to treat this thing and be able to play and enjoy the game. Because suffering, playing in pain, that’s no fun. It doesn’t matter, if you’re professional, some point in the game, you need to step out and that’s what I did.”
The Wizards are 0-3 this season and 7-31 overall without Nene since he arrived in a trade-deadline deal with the Nuggets in March 2012. They have also lost two games this season that he was unable to finish because of injury or ejection.
“Nene is a talented person,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “I’m not taking anything away from anybody else. We don’t have the capability of putting somebody like Nene that you can put back in the game, that you can play off of in the post, who is going to read and make plays. I don’t know if it’s confidence, but we lose a lot of our effectiveness from an offensive standpoint when we lose him, and it’s not just points. It’s what he can do. The attention he draws and that opens up a lot of other things, too. So the whole combination of that package is different when he leaves the game.”
The loss to Milwaukee again exposed the Wizards’ lack of depth, especially with Bradley Beal sidelined with a stress injury in his right fibula and veteran Al Harrington out since Nov. 12 with a sore right knee that hasn’t improved. Without Nene, the Wizards didn’t have another playmaker on offense beside Wall, who carried the team with 30 points and eight assists. And without Webster, the Wizards ran a play at the end of regulation that ended with his replacement, Chris Singleton, missing a wide-open three-pointer as time expired. Singleton finished 1 for 10, missing his final nine attempts.
“John made the right play. We got a wide-open shot, but it shouldn’t come down to that,” said Wittman, who felt that a lethargic effort in the first half played a bigger role in the loss than injuries.
Webster watched the rest of Friday’s loss in the locker room and felt that fatigue was a major factor down the stretch, when the Wizards squandered a five-point lead in the final minute of regulation.
“I really felt like we were headed in the right direction, and we still are. It’s just unfortunate that that happened last night, the way that it did, being in control, 54 seconds, we’re up five points and we just shot ourselves in the foot,” Webster said, almost echoing his coach. “Injuries are going to happen, and you can’t do anything about them. You got to deal with it.”