Wizards forward Nene will be sidelined for approximately six weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee, costing the team its most reliable barometer for success while it makes a push for its first playoff berth since 2008.
Nene underwent an MRI on Monday after he was injured in the third quarter of Sunday night's 96-83 win at Cleveland.
A six-week absence would sideline the Brazilian veteran until the final few games of the regular season. The Wizards have won three straight to get to 28-28, making them fifth in the weak Eastern Conference.
The oft-injured Nene was acquired in a trade in March 2012, and the Wizards are a different team when he's healthy. They are 60-61 with him and 8-34 without him, including 1-6 this season when he was dealing with a nagging right Achilles tendon.
Nene is averaging 14.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 30.1 minutes. He had one of his best games of the season Saturday, when he matched his career high with 30 points, including the game-winning dunk with less than a second remaining in a victory over New Orleans.
The Wizards are expected to fill Nene's void with role players. Trevor Booker started in Nene's place earlier this season, and Kevin Seraphin and Al Harrington filled in Sunday after Nene was hurt. Harrington recently returned from a three-month layoff following surgery on his right knee.
The Wizards host the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.