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Wizards plan to be cautious with Nene

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Brazilian vet will miss start of training camp

Wizards center/power forward Nene won't be fully ready to go when training camp opens next week at George Mason University as he continues to battle with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said all of his players are back in Washington during his preseason news conference on Tuesday. But the Brazilian veteran and centerpiece of last season's crucial trade deadline swap with Denver will have to play catch-up during the monthlong preseason.

"We're going to be very cautious," Grunfeld said. "We're going to take it very slow with him and make sure that he's 100 percent when we put him out there full time. But we expected him to be ready for the regular season for sure."

Nene averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in 11 games for the Wizards after being acquired from the Nuggets. He also missed a stretch of 10 games because of back and foot problems. After the season, he joined up with the Brazilian national team for the Olympics, where his minutes were limited because of an aggravation of his foot injury.

"He probably won't go two-a-days and go full in practice early in the season," Grunfeld said. "It just depends on how he develops. He knows his body very well, and we have all the confidence in the world in him coming back and helping us, just like he did last year."

Nene's limitations will open the door for Emeka Okafor to contribute right away at center and power forward following his arrival from New Orleans, along with Trevor Ariza, in a trade that sent Rashard Lewis to the Hornets. Grunfeld also expects third-year center Kevin Seraphin to continue his progress after averaging 15.5 points and 7.0 rebounds as a starter over Washington's final 15 games. The Wizards won their final six games to finish the year 20-46.

Grunfeld also pointed out more than once that third-year point guard John Wall was one of only three NBA players, along with the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul and Brooklyn's Deron Williams, to average at least 16 points and eight assists last year. This year's top draft pick, shooting guard Bradley Beal, has been working out at Verizon Center for most of the last month.

When asked about team owner Ted Leonsis' assertion that ending up back in the draft lottery next year would be "unacceptable," Grunfeld responded that Leonsis had also said "it wouldn't be the end of the world."

"We want to improve, and we want to get better on a nightly basis, and I think we will," Grunfeld said. "We'll show that. It's going to take a little bit of time, obviously, because we do have new pieces and the chemistry has to be built, and it has to gel. But we expect to be a little bit better team than we were the last couple of years for sure."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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