Nene’s participation in the London Olympics wasn’t guaranteed after he failed to represent Brazil in a qualifying tournament last summer. Nene even expressed some concern when asked last month about Brazil facing the United States in an exhibition game on July 16 at Verizon Center.
“It’s going to be amazing, big. The national team is going to be here, but I don’t know if I’m going to be on the list,” Nene said, while shrugging his shoulders.
Now he knows. Brazil Coach Ruben Magnano announced on Thursday that Nene, Indiana Pacers guard Leandro Barbosa, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter of the San Antonio Spurs would be on his 15-player list for the national team. Only 12 players will be in London.
Nene had asked to be released from the team before the FIBA Americas championship last summer, citing “personal” and “contractual” reasons. Fans and other Brazilain players were critical of the decision, but Nene was a free agent and likely didn’t want to risk injury. He eventually signed a five-year, $65-million contract with the Denver Nuggets before getting traded to the Wizards for JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf at the deadline.
Barbosa also backed out of the tournament, but Brazil advanced without either player. Magnano said in a news conference that he added both players with the hope of fielding the best team. “I decided to give them another chance after personally talking to them,” Magnano said. “I wouldn’t call up a player if I didn’t have any trust in him.”
Magnano led Argentina to a gold medal in Athens eight years ago and will guide Brazil through its first Olympic appearance since 1996, when Brazil finished sixth. Training camp for the Brazilian national team will begin on June 10 in Sao Paulo.