Washington Wizards big man Nene is expected to be back in the lineup after the first week of April, according to Yahoo Sports' Marc Spears. He has missed the last 14 games with a sprained MCL, and the initial diagnosis indicated he'd be out about six weeks. This is exactly that timeframe.
The Wizards have gone 8-6 in Nene's absence during this stretch, but are 9-12 without him on the season and have lost three of their last four games. Trevor Booker has started in his place, and Washington added Drew Gooden for some depth. Al Harrington, who missed most of the season recovering from knee surgery, has also received frontcourt minutes. Without Nene, though, Washington is simply not the same team when it comes to protecting the paint.
The Wizards are allowing 99 points per 100 possessions when Nene is on the floor this season, 106 points per 100 possessions when he is not. In their last 14 games, their opponents are scoring an average of 47 points in the paint and 106.6 points per 100 possessions, up from to 42.3 and 103 per 100 on the season. Washington might be known for its dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, but it is a defensive team first and foremost, and it cannot play at its peak without its anchor.
If the Wizards are going to make any noise in the playoffs, they'll need Nene manning the middle. They'll hope that the last handful of games of the regular season will give him enough time to get back in form.
Statistical support from NBA.com.