The Washington Wizards don't anticipate being a part of the NBA Draft Lottery for quite some time. Thus, the team is now thinking long-term with one of its most important players.
Nene, the big man from Brazil, was acquired by the Wizards at the trade deadline last season. In all likelihood, he will be kept out of two-a-day practices when Washington begins training camp at George Mason University this week, according to team President Ernie Grunfeld.
"We're going to be very cautious, and we're going to take it very slow with him and make sure that he's 100 percent when we put him out there full time," Grunfeld said at a media event Tuesday.
With Nene having turned 30 last month, the Wizards have to be somewhat concerned about his health since they have committed $52 million to him over the next four seasons. The Wizards are pleased with Nene's performance thus far. They will be even more pleased if he can be on the court for the bulk of the season. In a nutshell, Nene's greatest ability this season will be his availability.
The Wizards' locker room gained a lot of stability late in the season due to the presence of Nene. He replaced the immature but talented JaVale McGee, who, along with forward Andray Blatche and guard Nick Young, was part a group that never played up to their full potential.
With John Wall, the former No. 1 overall draft pick entering his third season, the Wizards have really focused its efforts on building a more stable environment for the point guard.
Washington started that process with acquiring Nene, who averaged 14.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game with the Wizards last year. In the off-season, they picked up veteran forward Emeka Okafor in a trade and used its first-round draft choice on highly touted guard Bradley Beal. The Wizards are hoping the combination will mean a return to the playoffs after four consecutive losing seasons.
During the London Olympics, Nene played for Brazil and aggravated the plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Grunfeld said he fully expects that Nene will be ready for the regular season, and playing it safe makes sense. "We have all the confidence in the world in him coming back and helping us, just like he did last year," Grunfeld said.