What had been a weakness with the Wizards -- the bench -- has now become a strength. They've responded with a four-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak, all on the road, after Saturday's win at the Boston Celtics.
The reserves, led by Nene and Martell Webster, are averaging 39 points a game. Going into this week, the Wizards (12-13) were worst in the NBA at 18.6 points. Nene played his second game since returning from soreness in his right foot and Achilles. In 23 minutes at Boston, Nene had 13 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals. He had 17 points in 23 minutes at the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.
Webster had missed one game with an ankle sprain during the losing streak and took a couple games to get his rhythm back but he has settled in again as a reserve. He'd started when Bradley Beal missed nine games with a stress injury to his lower right leg. Beal returned to the starting unit Monday at the New York Knicks.
As a result, role players such as Garrett Temple, Kevin Seraphin and Otto Porter and playing better. Having veterans such as Nene and Webster with the second unit is paying off and coach Randy Wittman has some decisions to make when, or if, the Brazilian regains full health. With the exception of the Celtics game, Trevor Booker has been a sufficient fill-in for Nene at power forward in the starting lineup.
"Martell sliding down there helps," Wittman said before playing Boston. "Any time you can solidify a young group, which our bench was when we were hurt, with some veterans it gives you confidence. That's what we've seen with Nene playing off the bench. It solidifies that a little bit more."
The Wizards don't play again until Friday at the Minnesota Timberwolves, who they defeated 104-100 at home last month.
If it's not broke, why fix it? Nene has been suggesting since preseason he needed to have his minutes scaled back. If he's going to be this efficient, and Booker does his job as a rebounder and can knock down the occasional mid-range shot, Wittman may have stumbled onto something here.
He already has tightened his rotation with Eric Maynor, Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely falling completely out of it. And by the time he gets Al Harrington (right knee) back next month, the Wizards could be in position to make a strong run into the All-Star break.