Wake-up call: Nene's injury can't be an excuse

Wake-up call: Nene's injury can't be an excuse
February 24, 2014, 6:00 am
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While the Wizards hold their breath pending an MRI of Nene's left knee on Monday, they have to start considering options. Even if there's no structural damage -- the initial diagnosis after Sunday's win at the Cleveland Cavaliers was a sprain -- it is safe to assume given the Brazilian will miss some time.

Nene has dealt with soreness in his right foot all season and at one time was on a minutes restriction and came off the bench. 

Coach Randy Wittman opted to go with Kevin Seraphin to join Marcin Gortat on the floor and hold off Cleveland. Usually, Trevor Booker is the first reserve to relieve Nene, but he juggles his rotations, he says, based on matchups. 

While Booker can be undersized, he provides energy, hustle and an improving mid-range game. Seraphin is more of a back-to-the-basket player who can be slow on defensive rotations but more reliable on offense.

[RELATED: Left knee sprain knocks Nene out vs. Cleveland]

There's no rule, however, that two bigs must be on the court at the same time. The Wizards (28-28) rarely have gone small this season, but with Al Harrington back from a right knee injury he could help fill that void when he returns to top shape. Harrington scored five points in his second game since Nov. 12, logging seven minutes. 

"Al gave us a big lift in the second half," Wittman said after Sunday's game. "He was panting like a doggy out there."

Still, there are plenty of other choices. With a 6-6 defender such as Garrett Temple, why not try a three-guard backcourt, putting him there with John Wall and Bradley Beal, to help defend the wing or the primary ball-handler? Or Andre Miller? Sure, the Wizards might be undersized, but it could create matchup problems for the opponent defensively, spread the floor and open the paint for Gortat. 

If Wittman wanted to go with an another style of forward, he could call on Chris Singleton. He hasn't played much lately but has the experience and probably would be a better option than rookie Otto Porter, who hasn't played more than seven minutes in a game since Jan. 24.

[MORE: Instant Analysis: Wizards 96, Cavaliers 83]

In the Wizards' next seven games, they only are at a significant size disadvantage March 3 when the Memphis Grizzlies play at Verizon Center, with bruisers Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in tow. 

If this is indeed a quality playoff team, most of these upcoming games are winnable even without Nene. Figure out how to win without him, and get quality minutes for players that have been on the shelf, too, and the Wizards could be better off and more well-rounded come postseason. 

Like owner Ted Leonsis said before the season, "no excuses." 

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