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Nene's foot injury puts early games in doubt

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Nene's foot injury puts early games in doubt

The 2012-13 Washington Wizards have two prominent players in John Wall and Nene. They are the kind of talents worthy of receiving odds, long as they may be, for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award as they were this week.

Neither has been healthy enough for a training camp practice nor seen a second of preseason action. Wall, the speed of sound running point guard figures to miss at least the first month of the season with a right knee stress injury, the kind of ailment that includes a bit of wait and see approach.

Yet at least there is some definition to his timetable. As for Nene, he of the plantar fasciitis issue with his left foot, not so much, no matter whom you ask.

First up following the Wizards' Friday practice, Wizards coach Randy Wittman. Any update on your high-priced starting center?

"I don’t," Wittman said before the team set off for Saturday's game at Milwaukee. Nene, Wall and Kevin Seraphin (calf) will all remain behind.

"[The trainers] are going to tell me when it’s time to get [Nene] on the floor. That’s when I see him down on the floor, to be honest with you. He’s amping up, doing more and more what he can do in terms of with the training staff."

This week Nene visited a foot specialist in Baltimore, receiving electric stimulation therapy.

"He went to Baltimore and they liked what they saw and the progress he’s been making. And that’s all I can really go on in terms of that," Wittman said, providing no authoritative answer on this particular topic less than two weeks before the regular season tips off.

Next, we, as in the media, turned to the 30-year Brazilian big man himself, looking for anything in the ballpark of a definitive response about his return. Forget playing in any of the three remaining preseason games; how about the Oct. 30 regular season opener in Cleveland?

"I’m not going to say," Nene said. "That’s the reason I don’t say. I don’t know. I want to, but sometimes it does not go the way you want. I just want to make sure I’m healthy to help my team because if I sit down again, that’s not good."

No, that would not be good.

"I’m getting there, man. I believe I’m making progress," Nene said. "I was a little behind than I thought. It’s still enflamed. I just want to take care of it the right way. But all the exercises, I’ve been doing fine. I’ve been listening. I’ve been obedient. That’s what I can say to you.

"Now, time, I just want to make sure I’m 100 percent because I don’t want this kind of injury again on a season."

Acquired last season from Denver, Nene missed 14 of 25 games including a stretch of 10 straight with foot issues. The gregarious center with the high quality low post game also helped change the team's vibe, approach on and off court. Washington won eight of its final 10 games last season. Even while sidelined during the preseason, Nene has been a vocal presence during practices and sitting on the bench.

Considering being in game shape is another matter altogether, could we see Nene against the Cavaliers if he were to miss the entire preseason?

"That’s up to him," Wittman said. "I can’t tell a player when to play and when not to. It depends on which practice situation obviously. He’s got to get on the floor and do things at full speed before I would put him out there. I can’t tell a player when he’s ready. That’s up to the player."

For now, we're left to wonder how long until Nene can help this year's squad win games while actually being on the court. All guesses welcomed.

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Wizards GM search: Resetting the potential candidates

Wizards GM search: Resetting the potential candidates

The Wizards general manager search reset needs a reset.

We head into the holiday weekend with the local NBA team still lacking a permanent front office leader. Zero reports of interviews of any kind since last week’s meeting with Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly.

At least we can cross off the idea of flirting with Portland’s Neil Olshey. The Blazers’ President of Basketball reportedly signed an extension one day after NBC Sports Washington reported interest from the Wizards.

For now, we wait, though be prepared for a hire any day – or not. At this point, here are the names to consider.

Tommy Sheppard – The Wizards VP of Basketball Operations began running the show on an interim basis following the firing of President of Basketball Operations on April 2. That he’s making the calls from inside the house, running the pre-draft process and showing a Wizards world with him in charge gives Sheppard an inside track over all other candidates.

To call him the favorite, however, might be a stretch at this point based simply on the fact that he has not been hired despite his in-house status. Sheppard is well respected around the NBA and league voices would tell frustrated fans they shouldn’t consider him Grunfeld 2.0.

Theory: If Sheppard gets the nod, the Wizards promote Go-Go general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu to serve as Sheppard’s number two and then promote the benefits of their G-League investment beyond player development.

Troy Weaver –The Thunder assistant general manager met with the Wizards twice. Weaver, long considered a rising front-office star, worked with Wizards coach Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City and flashed his recruiting skills at Syracuse when he landed Carmelo Anthony. The D.C. native still has ties to the area.

Danny Ferry – Like Weaver, Ferry met with the Wizards twice in Washington. Throughout the search process, multiple league sources told NBC Sports Washington that the former Hawks and Cavaliers general manager is the best candidate for the Wizards’ opening even over Connelly. The Hawks won 60 games during the 2014-15 season and reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

Some question the strength of his candidacy based on any lingering controversy stemming from comments he made as Hawks GM regarding Luol Deng’s heritage in 2014, of which an independent investigation stated Ferry's intentions were not racially motivatedThis week former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. vouched for Ferry’s character on a local radio show.

Neither Ferry nor Weaver was likely to have heard back from the Wizards since Connelly’s involvement as of mid-week, according to sources familiar with the situation. Like the rest of us, they wait for news. 

Larry Harris – There’s no official reporting linking the Wizards to Golden State’s assistant GM. Washington and New Orleans both used the same consultant, Mike Forde, during their front office searches. Many of the same people have interviewed for both jobs. Harris, the former Bucks GM who joined the Warriors in 2008, met with New Orleans before the playoffs began.

That the Wizards appear patient with their search may suggest they are waiting for someone still in the playoffs.

Masai Ujiri – Speaking of an executive whose team is still in the playoffs… Ujiri’s Raptors are one game away from reaching the NBA Finals. NBC Sports Washington previously reported Ujiri showed interest in Washington. However, expectations of high salary demands and compensation from the Raptors for their President of Basketball Operations stunted any serious movement.

Bonus names -- Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton was part of the Wizards front office from 2003 to 2013. … Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren was deemed a candidate by the New York Times early in the process. One Boston-based source believes that Zarren would prefer remaining with the team he grew up rooting for rather than pursue most open GM jobs. … Spurs assistant GM Brian Wright, another D.C. area native, just completed his third year with San Antonio. 

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: KZ Okpala

School: Stanford
Position: Forward
Age: 20
Height: 6-10
Weight: 210
Wingspan: 7-2
Max vertical: 37 in.

2018/19 stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 46.3 FG% (5.9/12.7), 36.8 3PT% (1.1/3.0), 67.1 FT%

Player comparison: Kyle Kuzma, Gerald Green

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 25th, NBADraft.net 23rd, Bleacher Report 27th, Sports Illustrated 29th, Ringer 41st

5 things to know:

*Okpala is a tall, lanky wing who loves to drive from the perimeter to the rim. He made the All-Pac-12 team this past season after improving his scoring average from 10.0 points as a freshman to 16.8 points as a sophomore. He also increased his rebounds per game average from 3.7 to 5.7.

*He is arguably one of the most athletic players in this class. At 6-foot-10 in shoes, he has great size for a wing player and measured at the NBA combine with a 7-2 wingspan. He also has an impressive vertical leap of 37 inches which would be good even for a point guard. He is also fast in the open court. Teams will be enticed with his ceiling on both ends of the floor.

*Okpala scored a lot in college but has a raw offensive game. He isn't fully there as a ball-handler and has an improving, but still inconsistent outside shot. The fact he made a leap from his freshman to sophomore year as a three-point shooter was a very good sign. His 36.8 three-point percentage on three attempts per game is encouraging but does not offer any guarantees that he can stretch the floor at the next level. His 67.1 free throw percentage doesn't help his cause.

*He is just the third player from Stanford to leave for the NBA before his junior season, joining the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, who were first round picks in 2010.

*Okpala is the son of two Nigerian immigrants. He had a 4.4 GPA in high school.

Fit with Wizards: Okpala would fill a need for the Wizards in that he is a forward and they don't have many of those under contract for next season. He would also give them a young player with high upside, something they currently lack.

But Okpala also seems to offer decent bust potential. Ever since Kevin Durant came into the league, there have been a lot of players like Okpala to come along, ones that are tall enough to play inside but prefer to work on the perimeter.

Sometimes that can work, like with Giannis Antetokounmpo or Brandon Ingram (sort of). But for every success story, there seem to be a lot of guys like Perry Jones and Thon Maker.

Okpala seems very much like boom or bust, and the Wizards may not be able to afford taking a chance like that.

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