After missing about six weeks of action due to a sprained MCL, Washington Wizards big man, Nene, returned to practice yesterday and is expected to play tomorrow night against the Charlotte Bobcats.
“There’ll be some restrictions early on, I’m sure,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said Tuesday. “I mean, five games (left). I haven’t sat down with the doctor yet to gauge that. That’ll happen today. First game back, especially. It gives us five games to get out there, get some rhythm, your timing, wind.”
Washington has been very cautious with their players returning from injuries this season, so it’s no surprise that Nene will be on a minutes restriction, especially given his history and inability to stay healthy for a prolonged period of time.
Drew Gooden, Al Harrington and Trevor Booker have all stepped up in Nene’s absence, but now that he’s returning, Randy Wittman will have to cut down on the minutes of a few of his bigs. Booker has been starting in place of Nene, and although I don’t expect Nene to get back into the starting lineup immediately, he might be the odd man out. Randy Wittman has played his veteran players a lot more than expected recently, and given how well Gooden has responded, I think we’ll see Booker get less playing time as a result. Of course, Wittman could opt to cut Harrington’s minutes and keep Booker out on the floor solely for rebounding purposes. Nonetheless, Wittman is going to have to get creative with his lineup changes, especially since rotations are shortened during the playoffs.
I don’t expect Nene to play much tomorrow night against Charlotte, but it will be nice to see him get back out on the floor. Nene’s dealt with numerous injuries throughout his career and an MCL sprain could be considered mildly serious. Washington has benefited from his presence on the court this season and I’m sure they can’t wait to finally have him back tomorrow.