From The Other Side: The Return of Nene, Ariza, and Rockets Defense (for 2 quarters) | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

From The Other Side: The Return of Nene, Ariza, and Rockets Defense (for 2 quarters)

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Updated: November 8, 2016

Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use our access to explore what is going on with the opposing team the Wizards are facing. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @rashad20 focuses on the return of two former Wizards, Nene and Trevor Ariza, and the improved the defensive concept that Houston Rockets Coach Mike D’Antoni has been so desperately seeking.

At least twice this year, Bradley Beal has shunned the normal locker room platitudes the Wizards often rely in favor of some pointed criticism toward his teammates. After the first game in Atlanta, he said his teammates gave up on defense, and after Saturday night’s loss in Orlando he was upset about the defense again, implying that he (along with Coach Scott Brooks) was fed up with the substandard effort. The coaches, Beal said, should focus on supporting the players who wanted to show up and compete.

Even after Monday night’s  game, Beal once again seemed the curmudgeon when he questioned his teammates’ ability to consistently play with heart. His focus on both ends of the floor, like the results, has been spotty at times as well, but that has not stopped him from being vocal about everyone else’s ills.

Ironically enough, Beal’s words and the sentiment behind them were similar to those of former Wizards center, Nene, who just happened to be in town with the rest of his Houston Rockets teammates. Nene’s tenure in D.C., as conveyed here by TAI’s Kyle Weidie, was mostly filled with good memories, but he was not all afraid to speak his mind about his teammates. He once called a 3-22 Wizards team “embarrassing,” and like Beal he questioned the team’s readiness to play. Nene also most famously told Wall, Beal, and the rest of the young players to “get their heads out of their butts.”

In his current role as the backup center for the veteran-laden Rockets, Nene is averaging just 7.5 points and a career-low 3.7 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. But against his former team—particularly on the defensive end in the last six minutes of the game—Nene was a key reason Houston was able to hold on to win. He blocked a Marcin Gortat shot, which would have tied the game, and that led to a Ryan Anderson 3-pointer that put the Rockets up five points. On two different occasions, Nene cut off the lane so that Beal and Wall could not drive, which forced them to either turn the ball over or give it up prematurely. He didn’t shoot, he didn’t score, and he grabbed just two rebounds, but his presence and his physicality affected the Wizards.

This was not lost on Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni:

After the game, Nene was noticeably happy, but just as he did during his tenure in D.C., he praised God, and kept his postgame comments extremely brief—but not before heaping praise on his time here:


Trevor Ariza.

Unlike Nene, who just left D.C. a few months ago, Trevor Ariza has been gone for three seasons now, which means he’s already endured the low-key pomp and circumstance involved with returning to the Verizon Center. Ariza, much like Nene, was a presence on both ends of the floor in the fourth quarter: He put the Rockets up for good with 6:28 left in the game via a corner 3, and then a 90 seconds later he stole an errant John Wall pass, and assisted on a James Harden layup which put the Rockets up 102-95. Just one minute after that, Ariza stole yet another Wall pass, helping to keep the Wizards scoreless for nearly three minutes. And much like Ariza did with the Wizards when Wall penetrated the lane, the Houston wing was the beneficiary of three wide open 3-point shots thanks to Harden’s penetration. He finished with 15 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists.

After the game Ariza spoke about how the Rockets needed to keep playing consistent defense, but his eyes lit up when he discussed Otto Porter, who he once competed with for the Wizards starting small forward position.

“I enjoy being here. I enjoy the fans. I enjoy seeing my three younger teammates with Otto [Porter] being over there watching them grow. It’s fun. I told Otto just now, I watched him from a rookie to what year is this? Fourth? He’s gotten a lot better. Obviously John [Wall] and Brad [Beal] are really good players but just to watch Otto become the player that he’s becoming it’s fun to see.”


Notes.

  • The Rockets were the third-worst team in the NBA in defensive rating (111.7) going into the game against the Wizards, and in an effort to improve upon that, Coach Mike D’Antoni started Corey Brewer in place of Eric Gordon (he also wanted Gordon’s offense with the second team). That move paid off in the second and fourth quarters when the Rockets held the Wizards to a combined 40 points, but the Wizards scored a whopping 66 points in the first and third quarters, which allowed them to stay in the game. Harden was pleased with the increased effort, but attributed the defensive woes to six road games and no Patrick Beverley (who is out with a knee injury, but is now running two miles in 18 minutes). D’Antoni praised his team’s improved performance, but also offered some perspective on why they have struggled defensively early in the season. His words may also be of comfort to Wizards fans who are unhappy with the Wizards 1-5 start. “I think most teams are like that to start with, and like I told them we aren’t even close to being who we’re going to be, and that’s good because we have a lot of room for improvement and there’s no reason why we can’t do that,” the coach said. “Everyone is a little discombobulated early. Teams make mistakes early. So we have to get a lot better. We can’t expect that it’s going to go this way, you can’t give up 50-50 balls or rebounds and then hit 3s and think you are going to win. Especially on the road, it’s just not going to do it. We got lucky.”
  • One of Coach D’Antoni’s first moves as the Rockets head coach was to officially make James Harden his point guard. He praised Harden’s basketball mind, playmaking ability and how adept he was at operating in space, and he felt like the point guard position would afford him better opportunities to help the Rockets win. After the game, Harden spoke on the differences he sees offensively from the point guard position:

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.