- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2012

By the time the Washington Wizards play their next game at Verizon Center, calendars will have flipped from October to November and Election Day will be just three days away.

The team had its only home preseason game Thursday against the New York Knicks and will play six more preseason games on the road over the next two weeks. The regular season opener will be at the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 30. The team’s home opener is Nov. 3 against the Boston Celtics.

“We’re getting ready to go on the road forever,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “That’s good. There’s a different mindset you need to have on the road.”

The mindset is one of fewer distractions and more focus — much like training camp. The team said goodbye to living in dorm rooms and two-a-day practices when it left George Mason University on Tuesday and returned to the Verizon Center practice court Wednesday.

Point guard John Wall will still be sidelined with a stress injury to his left kneecap by the time the Wizards return home, but it’s possible center Nene could be back in the lineup when the regular season starts. Nene is still bothered by plantar fasciitis in his left foot and has given no timetable for his return.

Despite being unable to play, Nene made his presence felt during the team’s weeklong training camp in Fairfax. He sat on the scorers table talking to Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld. He was a presence on the sidelines talking to his teammates during drills and scrimmages. He also kept up a running conversation with Kevin Seraphin, the third-year center Nene has mentored since the veteran joined the Wizards at last season’s trading deadline.

Wittman would have preferred to have his starting center on the court, but he was content to work with the players he had available.

“All I do is each morning I come in, I ask the trainer who I got, who I don’t have,” Wittman said. “That’s all I can worry about right now. I write down who I got and we formulate a practice plan and we come out here.”

On the first full day of practice at Verizon Center, as Nene sat on the sidelines, he stopped Wittman. As the two spoke, they used hand motions to discuss plays.

It was an encouraging sight.

“We added things we didn’t have when he was with us,” Wittman said. “I want him to stay engaged and have an understanding when he gets out on the floor.”

By the time practice had ended, Nene had removed his left sock and shoe, and grimaced slightly when he stood. It was not an encouraging sight.

“I come here every day, take care of myself, see when I feel really good,” Nene said. “When I feel strong enough to do all things I need to do on the court, that’s my timetable.”

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