- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 27, 2015

The list of Washington Wizards players still ailing remains long. Four consecutive wins makes the damage fell more palatable, if still not ideal.

Stepping closer to being on the floor are three significant players: Bradley Beal, Nene and Drew Gooden.

Beal, for the fourth time in four seasons, is dealing with a lower right leg injury. On Dec. 12, he was diagnosed with the beginnings of a stress reaction in his lower right fibula. The Wizards said Beal would be shut down for two weeks, then be re-evaluated. On Sunday, a Wizards spokesman said the team is hoping Beal can begin non-basketball activities in the next couple days. Beal has missed eight consecutive games.

“Everything looks good,” coach Randy Wittman said. “He feels good. The pain’s gone. But, hopefully, I think maybe start doing something — nothing obviously on the court.”

Beal first missed time in November 2013 because of a stress injury in his distal right fibula. He missed more time the following season because of a stress injury in his proximal right fibula.

Last season, he missed eight games because of a mild stress reaction in his right fibula, but went more than three weeks between games. Beal used the all-star break last season to heal. He departed a game Feb. 5 and returned Feb. 28. Beal played 33 minutes in his first game back and missed only two games the rest of the season. Both were for extra rest.

Beal, 22, is in the final year of his rookie contract. During the offseason, the Wizards offered Beal a contract extension that he declined, saying before the season began that he believed he is a “max” player. He is averaging a career-high 19.8 points per game, though his shooting percentages are consistent with his career numbers.

Nene and Gooden, each with calf injuries, participated in Sunday’s light, non-contact workout. Last week, Wittman said he thought each may be back by the end of the week. Sunday, he said the two are close to returning.

“That could change [Monday],” Wittman said. “[Monday], they could come out and not feel anything. They still feel a little bit. They’re doing stuff. Running and jumping to a certain point. I don’t want to say day to day because it’s not going to be tomorrow probably, but it’s close.”

Otto Porter returned from a bruised quadriceps in a 111-96 victory at the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night. Gary Neal, who has a strained quad, did not.
“I tell the trainer every morning I walk in here, ‘Tell me who can play and who can’t,’” Wittman said.

The injured and active players have gone through a healing process during the last two weeks. Washington has figured out how to better defend and still play fast on offense. During a four-game winning streak, opponents are averaging 96.8 points per game. The Wizards have sealed up the 3-point line better, though coming into Sunday, they remained the worst defensive team in the league against 3-point shots. They are also 28th in the league in opponent’s field-goal percentage.

“Early on in the season, we were just trying to outscore team,” point guard John Wall said. “We’re not built for that.”

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