Veteran making the most of his time off the bench

The Wizards have done their best to limit Nene's minutes. But the Brazilian big man's in-season training camp may need to come to an end for his own good and that of his team.

The Wizards (3-20) will play their fifth straight set of back-to-backs when they face the Detroit Pistons in a rare away-and-home beginning Friday. The games will be the seventh and eighth in an 12-day stretch. They played with just 10 healthy bodies available in Wednesday's 90-83 loss at Orlando.

"Somebody mentioned the word brutal, so you don't want to add minutes to a brutal schedule," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said Monday. "We'll see when we get through this schedule here after Christmas of adding, seeing where we're at in terms of adding."

Up next
Wizards at Pistons
When » Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where » Palace of Auburn
Hills (Mich.)

That plan may need to change after Nene put up a team- and season-high 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting in a shade under 25 minutes against the Magic. He successfully navigated the second night of back-to-back games for the first time this year after playing 24 minutes against Atlanta on Tuesday.

Twenty minutes per game off the bench have been the prescription for Nene since he returned to the court Nov. 21. Of course, his playing time jumped to 29 minutes in his second game back when the Wizards went to double overtime in a 108-106 loss to Charlotte on Nov. 24, and he missed the next game.

Since then his minutes have been more consistent, and Washington is 3-9 with him in the lineup. He's also averaging 12.7 points -- on par with his career numbers -- along with 5.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest. But that doesn't accurately show just how valuable his presence has been.

Nene is tied with reserve swingman Cartier Martin with a season plus-minus of plus-three, one of just three players on the Wizards in positive territory. In contrast, starting center Emeka Okafor (7.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) is at minus-four; he's also averaging just 22 minutes per night despite starting all but two games. Kevin Seraphin (11.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) is at minus-5.5.

Nene has finished with a plus-nine or better in five games. He was at exactly plus-nine against Orlando, which was also higher than any of the Magic's starters.

"I have no strength. No energy. I'm weak right now. Sick," Nene told reporters afterward. "And I just do my best right there, try to do what I can control, but it's been hard."

The third player with a positive plus-minus, albeit just barely, is Jan Vesely (plus-0.3). But the second year 7-footer has fallen completely out of Wittman's rotation. Even with Washington's decimated roster against Orlando, Vesely registered his seventh DNP-CD (Did Not Play-Coach's Decision) in nine games.