It's easy to forget now, but in the midst of the Wizards' hot start to the season, Nene was not playing very well. He was still a difference maker on the defensive side of the floor (He's currently 14th in the NBA in Defensive Real Plus/Minus, ahead of Tyson Chandler and Joakim Noah, among others), but his offense had gone from passable to detrimental. In particular, in the paint, where Nene has always been effective, was suddenly a weakness.
In October and November, the Wizards' Offensive Rating with Nene on the floor was 99.7, which would put them right ahead of the Magic and Pacers in terms of offensive effectiveness. Though he was still a net positive because of his stellar work on the defensive end, it was getting easier to justify playing time for the team's reserves. And if we're being honest here, the team's moves over the summer (signing Humphries, Blair, Gooden, as well as Pierce, who can serve as a small ball power forward) seemed to be made with the understanding Nene's play was starting to tail off and the team should have reinforcements ready.
Then, late in November, Nene's foot issues flared back up, which forced him to sit out nearly two full weeks. Unlike last year, when Nene's injury sent the team and fans into a paniced frenzy about whether or not the team could still make the playoffs without him, things were pretty calm in Washington. The Wizards went 4-2 in his absence, and they even found a way to limit Anthony Davis without Nene. The Wizards weren't better without Nene, but they certainly weren't desperate for him either.
But when he returned in early December, a funny thing happened: He didn't return hobbled, nor was he a shadow of himself. As it turned out, rest was just what the doctor ordered. Check out his numbers before and after his foot injury.
|Nene per 100 poss.||PTS||REB||AST||TOV||FG%||FTM||FTA||FT%||+/-|
Other than a dip in his assist numbers, Nene's production is up across the board, especially when it comes to scoring and rebounding. Whether he was dealing with foot issues longer than he let on, or his body was just fatigued, the rest he got in late November was just what he needed to get the spring back in his step, and it shows in his scoring and rebounding numbers. His shotchart since his return is just what you want to see out of him at this point in his career:
It's amazing how that one little bit of rest can make all the difference when you need to get past someone who is in your way.