|Nene and Wall could both be out for a while. (Getty Images)|
The Washington Wizards made some bold moves this offseason, dealing potential cap space for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. The trade of Rashard Lewis and a second-round pick to the Hornets for Okafor and Ariza took them out of the 2013 free-agent sweepstakes and added roughly $22 million through the 2013-14 season.
The moves put an emphasis on winning now and getting John Wall into a much more functional and mature basketball environment. Doing so would presumably show him the franchise is serious about winning and help keep him in the organization long-term. Convincing third-year players that you want to win with them is all the rage in this league of stars teaming up.
However, the Wizards are battling two big injuries this preseason that could keep their two best players out for an extended period to begin the season. Wall is battling a "stress injury" in his left knee, which could keep him out for six more weeks.
And as Michael Lee of The Washington Post tells us, the plantar fasciitis that Nene is battling has left him without a set timetable for his return.
“I was a little behind, than I thought,” Nene said, when explaining the reason for the treatment. “It's still inflamed. I just want to take care of it the right way. But all the exercises, I've been doing fine. I've been listening. I've been obedient.”
But that doesn't mean he will be available when the Wizards open the regular season Oct. 30 in Cleveland. When asked if that remained a possibility, Nene refused to make a commitment either way.
“I'm not going to say,” Nene said. “That's the reason I don't say. I don't know. I want to, but sometimes it does not go the way you want. I just want to make sure I'm healthy to help my team because if I sit down again, that's not good.”
Plantar fasciitis sucks. Players like Rajon Rondo and Tyreke Evans have been plagued by it recently, and it took away a lot of their effectiveness. Add in Nene's gigantic 6-foot-11, 250-pound frame, and that's a recipe for a lot of pain.
The smart move, which the Wizards are making, is to sit him until it heals. However, for a team that seems fairly desperate to break into the playoffs, it means taking away your best post player for some significant time. It's a test in patience, not just for the organization but also for Nene.
The mini-hoop interaction with fans will have to help satiate Wall's competitive drive for the time being, with a stress injury in his left knee keeping him sidelined for the next six weeks. Wall would like to be back in time for the Washington Wizards' game in New York on Nov. 30 but that will require a few more maddening days and patience because he still “can't run, can't jump. Can't do nothing.”
Practices are perhaps the hardest, and Wall admits that he sometimes has to leave to go to the training room, “so that I don't have to think about it.” Wall is always around for the conclusion to shoot free throws with his teammates and he recently started working on stand-still dribbling drills with assistant coach Ryan Saunders.
Wall's absence on the court is a little easier to deal with, simply because of the Wizards' depth in the backcourt. They have rookie Bradley Beal to be the main playmaker back there. At point guard, they have Shelvin Mack and A.J. Price to pick up the slack for running the offense. And Jordan Crawford is a bit of a wild card with his scoring ability and lack of a conscience when it comes to shot selection.
None of those guys has the potential to make plays and put pressure on the defense like Wall, but there are far more options in the backcourt than there are in the frontcourt.
To make up for the loss of Nene early on, the Wizards have Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker. After that, you're asking Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton or even Trevor Ariza to play bigger than their ideal positions.
If the Wizards can be competitive in the first month without Wall (and possibly Nene), the playoffs will still be in reach come the second half of the season. Rushing both players back before they're ready could not only hurt the team this season but also screw up their long-term goals of putting a winner around Wall.