Washington Wizards’ Ian Mahinmi Could Return Soon, Maybe

Washington Wizards hoped Ian Mahinmi would become a key part of their rotation, but the big man has been out with injuries. He might return soon, though.

I haven’t been to Washington, D.C. in a few months, but I swear I saw “Missing: Ian Mahinmi” posters the last time I was in the district.

He might be lost at sea. He might’ve faked his death. We can’t confirm his whereabouts.

With hopes of regaining their defensive identity, the Washington Wizards signed the former Indiana Pacers’ starting center, Mahinmi, to a four-year deal worth $64 million this past summer.

Right after Al Horford announced that he picked the Boston Celtics over the Wizards, Ernie Grunfeld secured a contract with Mahinmi.

Washington was a top-10 defensive team for consecutive seasons under Randy Wittman. But during his final season as head coach, the Wizards’ defense began to slip.

As their identity shifted – the team played small-ball instead of the traditional 2-in, 3-out sets last season – so did their defensive intensity.

Mahinmi, unlike Gortat, is known for his rim protection and physicality inside the paint.

In his last season with the Pacers, Mahinmi was a top-10 defender in terms of efficiency.

The signing, at least thus far, hasn’t paid off for the Wizards.

Mahinmi has dealt with numerous knee issues and experienced a setback after appearing in just one game for the Wizards this season.

He’s played 14 minutes for Scott Brooks, forcing the coach to use Jason Smith as the primary backup center.

Washington’s bench was supposed to be versatile, scrappy and defensive-minded. They’re currently last in scoring and field goal percentage.

None of the bench players, with the exception of Kelly Oubre, have done enough to consistently stick in Brooks’ rotation.

Mahinmi wouldn’t have helped much in the scoring department, but his presence would’ve changed the way the entire bench operates. Without him, the second unit hasn’t found its identity, making it that much harder for Brooks to coach his style.

The season is more than halfway over and Mahinmi is still in the dark. The updates on his health haven’t been very substantial.

According to J.Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic, Mahinmi went through shootaround on Thursday before the Lakers game, which is one of the final steps before returning. J.Michael also noted that Mahinmi could return to the court before the All-Star break.

It’s important to note, however, that Mahinmi suffered a setback after going through the same process in November. He finished shootaround and his knees couldn’t handle the stress, as he required more medical treatment.

Given Mahinmi’s injury history this season, the team should remain cautiously optimistic. Shootaround is one thing, but playing and taking contact in actual games is another.

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