Nene, Beal minutes watch tricky business for Wittman

Nene, Beal minutes watch tricky business for Wittman
January 22, 2014, 7:00 pm
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(Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)

(Updated 11:58 p.m.)

The Wizards are better with Nene than without. This has been proven time and time again since the Brazilian big man joined the franchise during the 2011-12 season. 

However, having the power forward available has not always been a constant. Various foot injuries have limited Nene's availability each season; he's missed seven of the first 41 games to date. 

Wizards coach Randy Wittman needs Nene skill and smarts on the court whenever possible. Managing those minutes so the 31-year-old is still in one piece come the final weeks of the regular season and perhaps beyond is also part of the coaching equation.

"There's days I do it pretty good and there are days I don't. Just flat out honest with you," Wittman said about Nene's minutes before Wednesday's game against the Celtics. 

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In terms of minutes, Wittman has a bit of double trouble right now. While Nene's situation is more about being cautious, Bradley Beal is on a strict 30-minute limit per doctor's orders. That proved an issue Wednesday night against the Celtics as Beal reached his limit by the end of regulation and didn't play in overtime.

"I just got to make sure I maintain an idea of where both [Nene] and Bradley - Bradley is still a situation where we've got to make sure where his minutes are at," Wittman said pregame. 

Nene's most recent foot injured kept him out four straight games in December. In the nine games prior, he averaged around 36 minutes per game. For his career, Nene plays less than 30 minutes per game. 

Upon his return, Wittman brought Nene off the bench, which essentially limited the potential playing time automatically. For the next 12 games, he never played more than 29 minutes, but was typically fresh for the closing stretch.

Wittman changed the lineup for game at the Chicago Bulls on January 13. Nene started, played 36 minutes. He played at least 34 minutes in his next three starts before a light 23-minute outing against the 76ers on Monday. Nene finished with 17 points in 34 minutes against the Celtics in overtime.

Too many minutes overall, perhaps. But the Wizards went 4-1 in that stretch before falling to Boston.

"It's hard sometimes. I was a player and a player gets hot in the first quarter you ride a guy like that," Wittman said. "This was my belief as a player and is now as a coach. I can't do that because then you're losing minutes at the end of the game. That's all I kind of think, make sure we're dispersing them on an even level so when we're coming down to the end of the game you have the ability to have your best players on the floor."

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