It's Past Time We Had 'The Talk' With Nene | Wizards Blog Truth About

It’s Past Time We Had ‘The Talk’ With Nene

Updated: May 9, 2015

[Nene Playoff Game Face - via]

[Nene Playoff Game Face – via]

Breaking off a relationship is probably one of the most brutal, awkward, and sheepish things that a person will ever have to do. It’s never easy to have to tell someone you once deeply cared about that they simply aren’t capable of fulfilling you in ways that were once mutually beneficial for personal growth. More often times than not, relationships run their course, and it appears that the short-lived but deep emotional bond with our Brazilian friend may be in the twilight phase of it’s existence.

Maybe Nene is hurt, or maybe he is reaching the rapidly declining stage of his career. Either way, the Wizards cannot allow his poor play to sabotage this team’s best chance at a title run since “Good Times” aired live in front of a studio audience, instead of syndicated on Nick at Nite.

Conventional logic says that if a player has shown over the course of several months that his play is in decline and costing his team, then the coach would not have a problem subscribing to the “next man up” coach-speak that is often tossed around in locker rooms. Nene is a team player, right? He would never put his own personal ego in front of the goodwill of the team, right? But when “Wizards Insiders” are asked about any potential lineup changes involving Nene, the response is usually some politically correct rhetoric about not wanting to cause too many ripples within the locker room during the midst of peak team success.

Tough love is in order here. If Nene doesn’t understand that his play is directly hurting this team and leading to its demise, and wants to bitch about a reduced role, then he’s probably not the correct man for the job. Why acquiesce to a player who is more than likely not even in the future fold. Additionally, to be brutally honest, Nene has one foot out of the door as is. There is a lot of talk about this KD2DC movement, and the NBA is expecting a huge salary jump in the next few years, but there will still need to be a large chunk of cap space removed from this current roster, and the $13 million Nene is due next season (the last of his current contract) is staring the Wizards right in the face.

This isn’t quite as deep as paying for the man’s travel arrangements out of town, but this could mostly definitely be  “the talk” used by people who became shacked up during winter hibernation but want to be set free for the full spring bloom. Simply put, it may just be time to see other people.

How bad has Nene been?

Just when Randy Wittman was proving to be the smartest Wizard of them all with his magical playoff lineups, Nene has defecated on these spells with his mere presence on the basketball court in this Hawks series. Against Atlanta, the Wizards are minus-17 points with Nene on the floor, and plus-11 points without him. It’s bad enough that Nene has the nimbleness of a dancing bear trying to guard Paul Millsap on the perimeter, but over the course of this season it appears he has lost the confidence in his offensive game to really intimidate opponents and impact games like he once did.

Nene apologists, which surprisingly there are a few amongst the Wizards faithful, will point to the fact that Nene’s contribution is devalued by Paul Pierce’s minutes at the power forward position. Nene averaged 25.3 minutes per game during the regular season and has only seen a slight decrease to 23.7 mpg in the playoffs. The minutes are virtually the same, but the production has fallen off a cliff deeper than the Grand Canyon. During the regular season Nene put together splits of 11 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and one steal per game on 51.1 percent from the field. In six postseason games Nene is averaging 6.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.8 steals. on an abysmal 36.6 percent from the floor. [Stats via]

When Did Nene’s Struggles Begin?

Nene’s struggles did not just magically appear when the postseason commenced, this has been a slow and steady descend beginning in March. In the month of February, Nene was still his usual spry self, unexpectedly still rocking the rim against opponents in an authoritative manner, without ever seemingly leaving the ground. Nene’s February splits were 12 points per on 55 percent from the field, but in the month of March Nene shot the ball much more poorly at a clip of 43 percent, while only scoring 10 points per contest. Since the Wizards 60th game, Nene has a team low minus-57 net points  in 16 game appearances.

The problems that Nene’s struggles cause for the Wizards offense are not only detrimental because of the wasted possessions that come from Nene’s missed shots or 1.9 turnovers per game in the playoffs, but the possessions that he affects by just being on the floor and clogging up the lane, are not allowing the Wizards to run their most effective offense. When we delve even further into Nene’s playoff stats, we realize that Nene appears to have lost all confidence in his shooting touch. During the regular season Nene shot 33 percent on jumpers from 10-to-16 feet from the basket, and 40 percent on jumpers 16 feet and longer. In the playoffs those numbers have dropped to 25 percent on jumpers from 10-to-16 feet and 18 percent on jumpers 16 feet and longer. The impact is felt when it eliminates the total threat of Nene’s man having to guard him when he’s away from the basket, leaving an athletic body like Millsap free-range to act as a help defender for his teammates. On the other end, Nene looks completely lost running around chasing after Millsap behind the 3-point line, as described by TAI’s Adam Rubin. In pick-and-roll defense, it appears as if Nene is diving too hard at the ball handler on the hedge, leaving himself almost no possibility to make up the ground on a pick and pop situation.

What is the solution?

The most obvious name that is thrown out the most when referencing a possible replacement is Kris Humphries. “Hump” has only played five meaningless minutes thus far in the postseason after missing a 17 games from mid-March/April, and never really getting the opportunity to earn more minutes in the playoff rotation, which seems like a huge oversight on Wittman’s part. Humphries has been a staple of the Wizards’ rotation all season long, and he held his own comparatively to other players at his position in terms of Win Shares. Hump contributed 3.8 regular season Win Shares while Nene contributed 3.0, Seraphin 1.7, and Drew Gooden also had 1.7 win shares.

While Humphries isn’t the quintessential stretch-4 that can extend his range all the way to the 3-point line like Drew Gooden, he is a much improved shooter in the midrange over Nene. Kris shot 47.9 percent on jumpers 10-to-16 feet and 43 percent on jumpers 16 feet and longer. This might not give the Wizards the natural analytical advantage that comes from getting more points from 3-pointers, but Humphries’ accuracy on the midrange elbow jumper goes a long way at keeping the defense honest. Humphries out-performed Nene in the rebounding department 6.5 rebounds per game to 5.1 per game, and that advantage could be used in the Atlanta series when watching the Wizards attempt to stave off the Hawks relentlessness on the offensive glass.

The best solution might be too start Humphries at power forward [Ed. Note: Millsap has been scratched from the Game 3 starting lineup with flu-like symptoms], and leave Gooden in his normal role as the stretch-4 off the bench. Nene and Gortat’s on-court time could be staggered, leaving the Wizards with a big-man adept at the pick-and-roll game for the guards while allowing for the floor to be properly spaced by not having two players of the same skillset clogging up the lane. Economies of scale.

The problem that has befallen Nene can be attributed to him being grossly overmatched on the defensive end, a complete shot to his confidence in his own abilities. Maybe now that the Wizards have heard the dreaded news of John Wall’s fractured wrist, it will act as a catalyst to mobilize inspired play from the collective unit. This team is going to need all hands on deck whether Wall is out for an extended period, or just severely limited.

Nene’s feistiness and spurts of passion is what endeared him to this hapless fan base when he was acquired as one of the first dominoes to rid the old-Wizards regime of ‘Javelo McGoo’ and a slew of characters that were not a positive influence on the young John Wall. There is still time to attempt to salvage this relationship for the duration of Nene’s contract, but in reality, this relationship is akin to a defunct marriage that is just holding on for appearance’s sake until the kids make it through college. Hopefully someone has the balls to sit Nene down and gently explain this to him.


Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.