Is there any kind of luck besides bad for the Washington Wizards? I wonder sometimes, I really do.
After all, it was just a few days ago that I was pumped -- as pumped as one can get when thinking about the Wizards -- when Washington addressed a real, pressing need by swinging a three-team deal to land veteran point guard Andre Miller to back up rising superstar John Wall. This, at least, indicated some resolve on the front of the Wizards' front office to make a play for the postseason this year.
Miller is no spring chicken (relatively, he's plenty springy compared to me), but should be a steadying influence on Washington's youthful roster with some ability to provide an offensive boost at times. Good move, one that had me optimistic that Washington would indeed be playing beyond those allotted 81 regular-season games.
Nene's knee seems to have other plans, apparently. Maybe it was predictable, even, that the Wizards' brittle big man was bound to miss some time with an injury somewhere along the line this season. But the timing of this injury -- just a day after Miller's debut -- really couldn't be much worse. It seems the Wizards filled one big hole in their rotation, only to find a bigger one gaping wide open within 24 hours.
Maybe it doesn't seem like that big of a deal, though -- Nene is solid, but hardly a household name. His production has been good this season, as the Brazilian forward has averaged 14.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and three assists a game. But the Wizards can get creative, right? There's always the trade deadline -- oh, right, that passed last week.
Consider this somber fact -- since Washington acquired Nene back in March of 2012, the Wizards are 60-61 with him on the floor. They're 8-34 without him heading into Monday night's game against the Orlando Magic.
Time to man up, Trevor Booker. Or Kevin Seraphin, or Al Harrington, or even Drew Gooden. Someone will have to replace that production until Nene returns.
The good news, I suppose, is that he will return -- early indications after his collision with the Cleveland Cavaliers' Jarrett Jack while setting a screen in Sunday's road win were fairly grim. It looked as though the big man's season might be done. Instead, Nene is projected to be back in about six weeks after suffering a sprained left knee ligament. That still leaves a few games left in the regular season, games that could well spell the difference between a playoff spot or a spot on the couch for the Wizards.
If the playoffs started Monday, the Wizards still would be in a comfortable position to claim one of the Eastern Conference's eight playoff spots. Heading into Tuesday's game, Washington was fifth in the East and would be looking at a first-round matchup against the Chicago Bulls.
Holding onto that seed would be a major accomplishment for the Wizards, even with a healthy Nene in the lineup. Washington faces plenty of challenges in its remaining 25 games, as the Wizards will have multiple run-ins with the very teams they're battling for playoff positioning.
The good news is they've still got Wall (team-high 19.7 points per game) and shooting guard Bradley Beal (16.7 ppg.) forming one of the league's most dynamic backcourts. Forward Trevor Ariza (14.2 ppg) has been the good kind of streaky, center Marcin Gortat has been solid in the post and swingman Martell Webster has been a spark off the bench.
So there's still plenty to work with in Washington. It just would have been nice to see what the Wizards could accomplish at full strength -- for once.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>