The Washington Wizards are rolling right now having won four straight games and as a result moving above the .500 mark for the second time this season. The Wizards were able to win and employ a small lineup with Trevor Ariza at the power-forward in their first game without Nene. The Brazilian big man was given the crushing yet encouraging news that he will miss from 4 to 6 weeks with a sprained left mcl. This news was crushing because in the short term, the Wizards need Nene in order to perform at their best. The reason I deemed this 4 to 6 week hiatus as encouraging was due to the immediate response from the team fearing that Nene would be out for the entire season.
Realistically in a weak Eastern Conference even without Nene as long as the Wizards don’t completely sink they should still be able to make the playoffs. Currently on a win streak, the Wizards look to keep it going against the Toronto Raptors, a team that they are 0-3 against this season, and three games back of in the standings. Arguably as hot as they have been all year winning a season high 4 games in a row, the Wizards were playing great ball before Nene got injured.
Prior to this devastating injury, the Wizards appeared fully healthy for the first time all year with the return of veteran power forward Al Harrington. The thirty four year old still has a keen ability to stretch the floor as well as to simply bring his playoff and general experience to this youthful team. In his first game back Harrington knocked down a 3 and totaled 5 points in limited minutes. With Nene missing an extended period of time, having Harrington back will be key as he possesses several different assets both on and off the floor.
The main player in my book who has to step up is Clemson graduate Trevor Booker. When he has played sparingly he has been an extremely solid rebounder but a lackluster scorer. The Wizards will be losing 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game without Nene, so the often offensively challenged Booker has big shoes to fill. After trading draft bust Jan Vesely, the Wizards got even thinner in the frontcourt and wouldn’t you know it, an injury happened immediately after. If Booker simply crashes the boards and plays solid defense then Wizards Nation will be happy with his performance. Marcin Gortat’s role will also likely be increased with Nene out as he possesses greater scoring capabilities than both Booker and backup Center/ Forward Kevin Seraphin. Gortat will more than likely be asked to log more time thus he must stay out of foul trouble and grab even more boards. This Nene injury would be crushing to a normal Wizards team but this team has a resiliency about them and an uncanny sense of confidence, which I think will help them keep the ship afloat until they get Nene back.