Washington Wizards center Nene is expected to miss up to six-weeks with a sprained MCL, team officials confirmed to ESPN on Monday.
As much as the playoff-chasing Wiz are expected to miss the team’s third leading scorer (16.5), and rebounder (5.8), the news could have been worse as it was initially feared the 31-year-old, 11-year veteran would be lost for the remainder of the season.
The 6-foot-11, 250 pound power forward was hurt during the Wizard’s 96-83 Sunday night win over Cleveland. Immediately following the injury, he had to be helped from the court by teammates and was unable to walk. At 28-28, presently the Wizards are the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, but if Nene misses the full six-weeks, as some suspect he will, he could miss the entire remainder of the regular season.
All season long, the Wizards have heavily relied on a top-10 defense with Nene as the anchor. Washington has allowed an average of just 92 points over their last four games with Nene averaging a block an outing.
As a nod to Nene’s importance, ESPN points out in 1,256 minutes without him the Wizards have defended opponents on average about as well as the overmatched 19-37 Lakers have. Since acquiring him from Denver in March of 2012, the Wiz are 60-61 with him in the lineup and 8-34 in games he’s missed, including 1-6 this season when he was dealing with a nagging right Achilles tendon.
The Wizards are now expected to turn to a frontcourt, big-man rotation of Marcin Gortat, Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker in Nene’s absence. The team is also rumored to be interested in signing veteran forward Drew Gooden to a 10-day contract.
In all, Nene has appeared in 49 games for the Wizards this season, averaging 14.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.24 steals in 30.1 minutes. On Saturday, a night before Nene suffered his injury, he recorded a career high 30 points against New Orleans, including the game-winning dunk with less than a second remaining.