Maturity, impact, health make Nene better as a reserve

Maturity, impact, health make Nene better as a reserve
December 31, 2013, 6:30 pm
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Wizards not taking .500 record for granted

Washington Wizards power forward Nene Hilario (42) celebrates with Wizards small forward Trevor Ariza (1) against the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth quarter at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 116-111.

(Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

An interesting decision awaits Wizards coach Randy Wittman: Re-insert Nene into the starting lineup when, or if, is right foot heals fully or leave well enough alone and keep the 7-footer coming off the bench.

Going into Wednesday's game vs. the Dallas Mavericks at Verizon Center, the Wizards (14-14) are on a hot streak. They've won five of their last six games, with four of the victories coming on the road. 

Trevor Booker has started 12 games this season, the last nine since Nene's latest flare up. Booker has averaged 9.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in that span. 

Nene and Wittman have been coy about definitively answering the question if he'd be OK with being a reserve for the first time in his 12-year career. Nene has played an average of 23 minutes since returning Dec. 18. His 28 minutes in Monday's 106-99 comeback win at the Detroit Pistons were his most since the recurring foot injury. It doesn't appear Nene will be playing starter's minutes anytime soon. 

"That's going to determine itself," Wittman said. "With minutes the way we are, that's what we're going to keep doing with restrictions."

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Of course, that answer is more than likely yes. Much like Nene's game on the court, he's not a selfish player. 

"Coach Witt knows what he wants to do," said point guard John Wall. "He has a great game plan. It's been a big plus for us adding more bench points, helping out our bench a lot."

Garrett Temple, Wall's backup, is certain of the answer. Nene's ego won't be an issue.

"I've actually talked to Nene about it. Nene is not a guy that has too much pride to come off the bench. He's just a guy that wants to win the game," said Temple who has solidified his spot ahead of Eric Maynor. "He understands his role when he's in the game with the second group. He's more of a facilitator. We can work through him. We have Martell (Webster) coming off the bench and scoring the ball. Nene brings a big guy we can post up, work off of and obviously defensively, he's been playing great for us as well. Trev has been playing great in the first unit at the four spot, bringing us a lot of energy and rebounding and stuff. If it continues, I don't know why we would change it."

Exactly. If the Wizards are going to be a playoff team, saving him for the second season -- the playoffs -- is more important. And they're more than good enough right know to beat a lot of teams in the East. 

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