Wizards guard Raul Neto's secret to rarely missing time with injuries

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Wizards use balanced attack to blowout Grizzlies

Neto's secret to rarely missing time with injuries originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON -- It would be easy to forget watching Raul Neto on Friday night as he carved up the Memphis Grizzlies for 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting on one end of the floor and helped hold star guard Ja Morant to his worst scoring game of the season so far, that Neto is still playing through a left shoulder injury.

While he isn't showing it with his play, you can tell it's still a factor by the black tape he has wrapped down his left bicep.

Neto is having to go through extra treatment with help from the Wizards' training staff in between games and practices. Yet, he only missed one game due to the injury and continues to be a key cog in their rotation.

That has become a theme for Neto during his brief time in Washington. Now in his second season with the Wizards, he has played through a series of ailments. Last year, that included a painful rib injury.

Neto, though, has accepted that as just part of his job.

"One thing I learned from last year is that I’m always going to have something going on and I’m always going to have to play through it," Neto said. "It’s something that doesn’t bother me and doesn’t affect my game."

"I think just being tough and wanting to be out there. When you have an opportunity after so many years in the league to play, you don’t want to have reasons to sit out. You don’t want to have reasons to not play a game or to have limited minutes."

Neto, 29, signed with the Wizards last offseason on a one-year deal and enjoyed the best season of his career with the Wizards. He went from averaging 12.4 minutes per game with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019-20 to 21.9 minutes per game with the Wizards in 2020-21. They then re-signed him on a one-year contract this past summer, only to see him put up even better numbers so far in 2021-22.

This year, through eight games, Neto is averaging career-highs in minutes (22.3), points (9.1), assists (3.3), rebounds (2.9) and field goal percentage (54.4). Even in a deeper rotation, he has proven to be indispensable for head coach Wes Unseld Jr. A defensive-minded coach, it has been a natural fit between player and coach.

Neto says the tape on his left shoulder is mainly a reminder that his injury could get worse if he aggravates it. He says it helps him remember not to bump into anyone and it's not uncommon to see him finish with his right hand when he otherwise would go up with his left.

He is doing his best to manage it and, though there is some lingering discomfort, it's not enough to keep him off the floor.