Opening Statements 06: Wizards vs Rockets — Remembering Nene | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements 06: Wizards vs Rockets — Remembering Nene

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Updated: November 7, 2016

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Remembering Nene’s time as a Washington Wizard is a practice in fondness but complicated nonetheless, literally pained by the fact that he only appeared in 70 percent of the games he spent with the franchise. But his wizardry will always be recalled much more for the good rather than the lack of accomplishment, partially because of how toxic things were with his successor, but primarily for his dismantling of Joakim Noah and the Bulls during the 2014 playoffs. We’ll always miss the haters.

Staring down the barrel of age 30, Nene became a Wizard in a three-team trade that netted the Denver Nuggets JaVale McGee and the Los Angeles Clippers Nick Young in mid-March 2012. It signaled the death of youth, or at least that Wizards generation. The Wizards cut ties with McGee, wrenched with developer’s scorn. For TAI, writers Dan Diamond and Beckley Mason each provided great of-the-day assessments of the directional shift exchanges between the two teams. Ultimately, it cannot be disputed: the Wizards got the better of the deal.

Nene had spent all nine-plus years of his NBA career with the Nuggets and arrived in Washington with accusations of being a malingerer and under an air of buyer’s remorse—Denver had just signed him to a five-year, $67 million contract prior to that 2011-12 season.

The man formerly known as Rodney Maybyner Hilario didn’t arrive in Washington until 24 games were left in the 2011-12 season, but from the start of that campaign through last season, he’s second on the team in total plus/minus, plus-474 over 249 games. (Marcin Gortat, who joined the Wizards prior to 2014-15, ranks first: +610, 238 games; John Wall is +362 over 353 games since 2011.)

Nene generally enjoyed receiving the attention—it was like a currency to him—and he often returned the favor with a smile. He was also just as content to deny one’s ability to give him attention. He wore emotions on his sleeves, and no referee could ever do him right. Nene was most definitely a diva—in pride, willingness to sacrifice his body, and temperament in escaping the media when he just didn’t feel like talking. Still, his presence on the court and off was fun, and quite hashtag-able: #NeneHands, #NeneJams, and #Pray4Nene. But the most important part of the picture: Nene the basketball player.

Quick feet on defense like a soccer player, especially in his heyday, and defensive awareness and vision like a middle linebacker—these traits define him. Nene’s power and balance was often underestimated, and yes, sometimes that could be diluted by his flair for dramatic flailing. He could hit a jumper, sometimes—just ask Joakim. And he often wavered on the cusp of fulfillment with his combination of bull-like strength and agility in forays to the hoop. Nene was among the best of his positional contemporaries in his ability to pass the ball, and that more than anything helped affect a culture change from the Wizards being a hapless, but lovable band of selfish losers when John Wall entered the league to the playoff team they became.

If you are curating a list of Wall’s Top 5 teammates since entering the league, Nene is on that list. And for that reason alone you can welcome the visiting Houston Rocket back with a cheer. It’s too early to tell if the Wizards will ever make progress on their plan, but Nene was a huge part in getting them pointed in the right direction.

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[Nene with belt -- photo via K. Weidie]

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[#NeneHands, #Pray4Nene -- via @ConorDDirks]

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[True: this duo represents the most versatile combination of big men, especially offensively, that the Wizards have had in years. -- via instagram/mgortat13]

 

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.