It took a month into the Wizards' season, but on Saturday night head coach Scott Brooks finally had a full alotment of players, a healthy roster complete with each addition the franchise made this offseason. Their biggest signing, Ian Mahinmi, was the final piece. After rehabbing a partially torn left meniscus for six weeks, he returned to the court on Saturday to face the San Antonio Spurs.
The game itself was one the Wizards will not look back fondly on. They lost 112-100 at home and fell to 5-10 on the season. But they have Mahinmi back and that should improve their team, most notably their second unit defense, moving forward.
"We're happy for him," shooting guard Bradley Beal said. "He's done a terrific job in rehabbing and he worked his tail off to get back on the floor. It's always a good sign for him and a good sign of confidence for the team knowing that he's back and that he worked his way back into it. Once he gets back into game shape and can go full-throttle, it will be good for us."
Getting into better shape is the key, naturally, for a guy who now has to catch up to the rest of the league that is in midseason form. He missed 14 games and looked like it at times during his 14:05 minutes on the court.
Mahinmi scored one point, blocked one shot and had three fouls in the loss. He took just one shot and registered a -11 rating.
“I knew going into this game that he was going to be rusty, and he was, but he gave us good effort," Brooks said. "It’s going to take him some time. I’m very patient and he understands that we all are. But I like what he brings to our team. He’s a tough player and he just brings a good fiber to our team. I thought tonight’s game, at times he looked good [and] at times he looked rusty. That’s expected."
Mahinmi himself is hopeful it won't take him long to get up to speed. He has already rehabbed for six weeks after having surgery on Oct. 15.
"I'm optimistic. I'm an optimistic guy. I'm just not happy with the result," Mahinmi said. "But I'm looking at the big picture and I just want to play the right way. I want to play the right way. I want to take steps forward. I don't want to take a step back. Tomorrow I will come in and do my work and look at the stuff that we can improve and the stuff that I can improve and move forward."
Mahinmi, who signed a four-year deal worth $64 million in free agency this offseason, said he knew he would be able to return Saturday earlier in the week after feeling good in consecutive practices. The Wizards picked Saturday night, the second game of a back-to-back, to prevent him from playing two straight days right off the bat.
It was a tough assignment, playing against the Spurs in his first game back. San Antonio (14-3) took over in the second quarter and cruised to the victory.
It wasn't a great night for the team overall, but for Mahinmi it was an important one.
"My left knee is pretty good. That's about the only positive point," he said.