Time for Wizards to Start Nene? Despite Minutes Limit, Answer Might Be 'Yes'
Randy Wittman begged and pleaded last night for the media to alert the world about the limit on Nene’s minutes.
“I had fans heckling me, alright? I mean, come on!! Will you guys please report that this guy’s on a minute limit? They’re killing me… I had to turn around and say something to them today.”
Mr. Jack Kogod (@Unsilent) had this nugget of reality to add via Twitter:
@Truth_About_It Not sure why he thinks that fans who are unaware of Nene's limit are actually reading media reports.
— Jack Kogod (@Unsilent) December 19, 2012
Nene has played 11 games this season and is averaging 21.5 minutes per game. He has come in below the 20-minute mark four times, and he has exceeded the 24-minute mark three times — 29 minutes in his second game, a double-OT loss to the Bobcats; just over 24 minutes in his sixth game, a nine point loss in Atlanta; and 24 minutes in Tuesday night’s OT loss to the Hawks in Washington. Along the way, Nene has sat out two games — against the Spurs after those 29 minutes in game No. 2 against Charlotte; and he sat out last Saturday’s Heat game after playing against the Lakers on Friday.
Wittman has done a commendable job limiting Nene’s minutes, and per the coach’s words, he always checks and defers to how the player feels. But, before Nene started playing in the 10th game of the season, the idea that there was no single, dependable status regarding Nene’s injury (and his availability) seemed to be a sore subject for the coach. In fact, the lines of communication surrounding the early returns of ‘will he or won’t he’ between coach and player seemed to be muddied (in an ever-so-slight Gilbert Arenas way). But we are now past that; getting better, but still uncertain.
In Nene’s 236 total minutes on the court, 16% have come in the first quarter (3.5 min. avg.), 27.5% in the second quarter (5.9 min. avg.), 21% in the third quarter (4.5 min. avg.), 29% in the fourth quarter (6.3 min. avg.), and 6.4% of Nene’s minutes have come in extra periods.
In the 13 team games since Nene’s official return on Nov. 21, the Wizards’ current starting lineup of Jordan Crawford, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Chris Singleton, and Emeka Okafor have played 67 minutes together, appearing in eight games. Their total plus/minus during this time: minus-55.
Replacing just Okafor, the 5-man unit of Crawford, Beal, Webster, Singleton, and Nene — the third most-used lineup over the past 13 games — has spent 22 minutes on the court together, appearing in four games. Their total plus/minus: plus-12. That’s a 67-point difference. The nature of the opponent be damned, but that’s significant.
Nene has even played next to Okafor in a couple lineups over the past 13 games. First 5-man unit: A.J. Price, Webster, Trevor Ariza, Nene, and Okafor — 13 minutes over two games and a total of plus-20. Price and Ariza are now hurt, and that was a specialty lineup anyway. Second 5-man unit: Beal, Crawford, Webster, Nene, and Okafor — 12 minutes over one game (the road loss in Houston) and a total of plus-one.
Perhaps there’s something to all of this, and the remedy might be to bring Chris Singleton off the bench. That is, if this season matters anymore. And it probably doesn’t, at least not enough to warrant the Wizards attempting to maneuver the seemingly complex idea of starting Nene while limiting his minutes.
But, if Wittman wanted to do it, if he wanted to tinker toward success (and he has), it can be done. Start Nene; remove him around the seven minute mark of the first quarter (realizing that doing so could throw off early-game chemistry the starters try to build — wait, what chemistry?); give him about four-to-five minutes midway through the second quarter; and then Nene would still be ready to assume 4-to-5 minutes midway or toward the end of the third quarter and the final six or so minutes of the fourth quarter. There you have it, 20 or so minutes… the limit.
Sounds easy, but I’m not a coach, and I don’t have plantar fasciitis. But if there were ever a time to do it — start Nene alongside Okafor — why not tonight against the Magic? Orlando does field a fairly bruising interior duo of Nikola Vucevic and Glen “Big Baby” Davis (the Magic are ranked 10th in the NBA in Points in the Paint per game, 42.8).
Oh, right, it’s the second night of a back-to-back — always dicey for the Brazilian, baby.
Maybe I’m just waiting for someone to tell me that all of this prognostication means something. Don’t worry, I’ll be here, waiting…
Otherwise, what do you think? Time to start Nene?