Nene’s return to the court for the Wizards has been crucial, given how close Washington has come to victories in its last two games. It’s also been heroic, given how quick he’s gone from spectator to participant after sitting out for more than three months with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. It may grow to legendary if his ridiculous plus-minus trend continues.
But there’s a difference between trying to come to the Wizards’ rescue and actually getting back into the rotation on a permanent basis. Even if his return to action came earlier than expected, the latter is what’s expected going forward by the Wizards (0-11), who host San Antonio (11-3) this evening.
“I plan on him playing,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said after Sunday’s light practice. “He didn’t get hurt.”
But Nene was very sore. While he played just under a suggested limit of 20 minutes at Atlanta last Wednesday, he pushed through to 29 minutes in two overtimes against Charlotte on Saturday. He joked that could barely talk afterward.
“I have no choice, I tried helping my team,” Nene said. “I knew my limitation, but I try to help my team. That’s why they brought me there, to play the whole minutes I play tonight.”
And just like the rest of his teammates, Nene is expected to battle through and keep on playing – unless he can’t. As far as Wittman is concerned, if he’s dressed and on the bench, he’s ready. A 20-minute limit isn’t the hard and fast rule.
“This is on him,” Wittman said. “I can’t judge his pain, what kind of pain, if he’s having pain. I’m leaving that on him.”
Against the Bobcats, it was almost a case of the Wizards going to Nene one too many times, as he coughed up the ball on a would-be game winning possession in the second overtime. He was also laboring significantly at the start of the fourth quarter after playing the last four minutes of the third.
So while Nene needs to push himself through and use his minutes to improve his game shape, Wittman will also need to be vigilant with understanding how much his star power forward/center can handle on the court.
But there’s no extra caution the staff is taking to determine if Nene should play or not.
“This has got to be his kind of terms,” Wittman said. “Is he feeling tight? Is he feeling soreness? Is he feeling it being fatigued? Those are questions only he can answer. When he does its being let known and then I’ve got to make a substitution. [Saturday] was different. He said he felt fine and wanted to continue on. I give him credit. He fought down to the wire trying to get us a win.”