Nov 10, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Washington Wizards power forward Nene Hilario (42) attempts a shot against Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka (9) during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Wizards' Nene Participates in Practice, Could Return on Wednesday

After becoming sidelined with an MCL sprain that he suffered about two months ago, Nene is finally expected to return to the Washington Wizards’ lineup. According to J.Michael of CSN Washington, Nene went through a full practice today and is expected to be back soon.

Washington’s next game is on Wednesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, and if prior reports are true, Nene could potentially be ready by then. He’s been right on schedule in terms of the rehab process and a return to game-action shouldn’t be ruled out on Wednesday. When players go down with injury, their final step before returning to the court is usually going through a full practice, so this is a good indication for Nene.

The Wizards have continued to play above .500 ball without Nene, but their defense has slipped a bit. Trevor Booker, Al Harrington and Drew Gooden, who the team almost immediately signed after Nene got hurt, have helped the Wizards on the offensive side of the floor, but their defense leaves much to be desired.

For Washington to have success, they have to go back to playing high caliber defense and they’ve had trouble doing that without Nene on the court. Of course, it certainly won’t hurt to have another offensive weapon back on the court either.

Washington is currently sixth in the Eastern Conference and their match up against the Bobcats on Wednesday night could potentially be their most important game of the season. If the Wizards want to avoid playing against the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, it could come down to the outcome of Wednesday night’s game.

Nevertheless, I’m sure the Wizards will welcome Nene back with open arms. Marcin Gortat has been forced to carry the front line in Nene’s absence and he’s especially looking forward to his return:

“He can knock down the open jump shot. He’s a huge threat defensively under the basket. It’s a huge difference. He’s a veteran. He’s a very skilled player.”

If Nene returns on Wednesday night, I’d expect him to come off the bench until he gets his legs underneath him before the playoffs begin. Washington has been cautious with their injured players this season and I doubt they’d want to thrust Nene back into the starting lineup after coming off a somewhat serious injury.

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