Nene Not A DIY-er
[Yi Jianlian vs. Nene at the London Olympics, original image via AP]
D.I.Y. stands for “Do-It-Yourself,” and it’s all the rage amongst the hipster kids aiming to minimize reliance on others to get things done (trust funds be damned). D.I.Y. can involve noble satisfaction. Have a leaky sink? Fix it yourself. There, satisfied. In a sense, this entire self-published blog website started as a D.I.Y. But D.I.Y. doesn’t work so well on the basketball court, as Wizards fans are all too aware.
Nene is not a D.I.Y.-er, and for this, John Wall’s point guard ability will blossom. For that matter, the entire Wizards team could flourish when they relent to the reliance on others. Might you be listening, Jordan Crawford?
Nene and the Brazilian team moved to 3-1 in Group B play after deconstructing China on Saturday and will finish the preliminary round with a game against Spain today. With the 98-59 victory (Brazil doubled China’s score by halftime, 42-21), Nene didn’t even have to play in the final two quarters, resting whatever might ail him (such as his ongoing plantar fasciitis). A highly effective 11 minutes off the bench in the first half was all Brazil needed; Nene contributed six points, five rebounds, two assists, and a steal in this time span. Brazil’s entire team put on an impressive display of unselfish basketball, even with the knowledge that China, now 0-4 in group play, has little in terms of talent. Nene’s contributions to the Brazilian team could have implications on how the Wizards will run their offense next season, as they would like to incorporate the same unselfishness cultivated by Nene on the international stage.
Nene is a table full of tapas on the court, little samples of everything good. His willingness to put himself in position for rebounds alone might mean noticeable upgrades from the Andray Blatche/JaVale McGee duo. A Wizards team rebound percentage of 48.9-percent crept up to 49.7-percent with Nene on the court last season, down to 47.6 and 46.9-percent respectively with Blatche and McGee on the court. The game comes down to every possession.
Another cliche: the little things add up. Nene entered the game for Brazil around the four minute mark of the first quarter. (He doesn’t need to start with Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter kicking things off.) The Brazilians soon looked to establish Nene in the post. An early entry pass catch near the left block came tough for Nene; but he recognized that it put him in a bad position and kicked it out to a teammate instead of being insistent on recklessly establishing himself at the rim. How many times have you seen a young Wizard do that?
It should also be noted that the Wizards team assist ratio (assists per 100 possessions) for 2011-12 stood at an even 20. With Nene on the court that jumped to 23.1; with Blatche, down to 18.9; with McGee, 19.3. [stats via nba.com/stats]
With close to a minute left in the first quarter, Nene, given plenty of space by China’s Wang Zhizhi, drilled a baseline jumper. On the other end, he sparked more offense by playing help defense, blocking a guard’s layup attempt at the rim. With the next offensive possession, Nene once again received the ball on the baseline with Zhizhi in his sights. Instead of again taking the open jumper, he drove baseline and found Leandro Barbosa for a corner 3-pointer (which more so drives home the point that passers besides John Wall need shooters, too). On the basketball court, Nene is aged past D.I.Y. trends — Blatche, McGee, and Young were Do-It-Yourself-ers. D.I.Y. in the NBA only makes sense in very special circumstances (and even then). In the real world, one must measure time and cost with convenience of service. I opt for washing machines instead of cleaning my clothes in the sink by hand, but I did hang the flatscreen television myself (it’s about three degrees crooked if you must know).
Nene’s six points came via that aforementioned jumper; from running the middle of court in transition (a dunk!); and from almost dunking on Yi Jianlian, getting fouled, and sinking two free-throws. Speaking of Yi, the ex-Wizard, he resembled a flower as much as ever. Granted, Yi banged/twisted his knee in China’s third loss to Australia and must’ve played through some pain against Brazil, but especially in trying Olympic circumstance, his petals looked wilted. Yi was held scoreless in the first half while China shot 27-percent; he missed his first seven shots before getting into the scorebook on a free-throw. Yi finished with five points and six rebounds in 30 minutes. He was often hesitant, and Nene made neutralizing him look easy, forcing Yi into an airballed baseline jumper and crowding him into turnover out of an ISO at top-of-the-key.
Eyebrows were raised when Yi scored 30 points to go with 12 rebounds in China’s Olympic group-play opener against Spain. But the Wizards were already convinced that Yi’s development, real age, and marketing prowess due to China did not fit in their plans last summer. Now, instead of a 28-year-old Yi (or a 26-year-old Andray Blatche), the Wizards have a 30-year-old of Nene. You envision the Wizards running a lot of their offense through Nene; and when I say “lot,” a crude estimate would be 30-to-40-percent in the halfcourt, if not more. This leads to the thinking that Emeka Okafor would be more suited as a starter alongside him while Kevin Seraphin comes off the bench to offer a “do as Nene does” supplement for Washington.
With Nene, his strong hands, and his ability to hold offensive position in the post, John Wall must be considered. Again, as the face of the franchise, the ball will be in Wall’s hands for creation on plenty of possessions. But when the rock is coming out of Nene’s hands, the Wizards open up offensive options for Wall, a good finisher, to get the ball from dribble hand-offs and the like. Actually, a whole array of offensive movement options increase with Wall off the ball, but many are contingent on him getting a better jump shot. To be determined.
One of the more interesting areas of improvement for the Wizards will be the offense. Sure, the defense noticeably improved after the trade that sent McGee to Denver for Nene, but will a full training camp — Wittman’s first one in charge — and offensive options like a Brazilian who will now cultivate trust amongst teammates, what kind of point guard can John Wall really be? People can’t wait to find out, because the next version of the Wizards you see should bring the relative death of the D.I.Y.-ers, while accountability and competition hopefully leave any remnants without enough oxygen to breathe.
Nene baseline jumper.
Subsequent Nene baseline drive.
Nene bothers Yi Jianlian into a turnover.