When a player watches the end of practice with ice bags on his knees, it’s not usually an encouraging sign.
Unless, of course, you are the Wizards and you’re 0-7 without Nene.
Sidelined since the start of training camp with plantar fasciitis, the Wizards’ big man was back on the practice court at Verizon Center Friday, taking part in some half court drills.
“He got on the floor a little bit today and did some half-court stuff that we were doing,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “He took another step forward today.”
Asked how Nene looked in his limited action, Wittman quipped. “He looked good. He was on the floor.”
Acquired from Denver in exchange for JaVale McGee last March, Nene has been battling pain in his left heel since last season, when he missed 27 games. He aggravated the injury while playing for Brazil in the Summer Olympics and had not practiced with the Wizards until Friday.
Averaging just 88 points a game, the Wizards are in desperate need of scoring help down low, where Trevor Booker [8.1 points, 5 rebounds], Kevin Seraphin [10.3 points, 4.3 rebounds] and Emeka Okafor [8.4 points, 6 rebounds] have been inconsistent. Nene averaged 13.7 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Nuggets and Wizards last season.
Although Nene, 30, is believed to be at least two weeks away from returning to the lineup, point guard A.J. Price said he saw an immediate impact from the 6-foot-11, 250-pound Brazilian at Friday’s practice.
“It would be huge [to get Nene back],” Price said. “Just his presence out there today for the few things that we had him in there, you could see the difference. It was night and day. It would be good to have him out there.”
The problem with plantar fascitiis is that other than rest there is little else an athlete can do to treat it. That’s why the Wizards are showing as much patience as possible with Nene.
“I have no idea [when Nene will return], I really don’t,” Wittman said. “When I do I’ll let you know.
“It’s absolutely a step in the right direction. We haven’t had any setback with John [Wall, stress injury to right knee] or him. As long as we keep moving in that direction it’s positive, very positive.”