When Nene signed a five-year, $67 million contract with the Denver Nuggets in December, he figured it would offer a measure of stability coming out of the NBA’s lockout.
But after going through his first practice as a Washington Wizard at Verizon Center Monday afternoon, the Brazilian center couldn’t hide that last week’s three-team trade that sent him to Washington was not the sort of course he expected his career to take after signing a long-term contract.
Asked how he found out that he had gone from being in the middle of a playoff race in the Western Conference to the team with the NBA’s second-worst record, Nene simply responded, “You don’t want to know.”
“It was crazy. It was tough. I don’t like to mention much because I still have no clue what happened,” Nene said Monday when he met with Washington reporters for the first time. The 10th-year pro had spent his entire career in Denver until now. “But I trust my Lord, my God. He put me here and I know when he trades me to somewhere or for somebody, it’s for better things, for better stuff.
“I’m surprised by it, but it doesn’t matter. I put it behind,” he later added. “Now I’m gonna try to do my best, get ready for a new career and try to be a better man.”
Nene said his initial reaction was to be “a little scared” upon learning that he and former Los Angeles Clippers forward Brian Cook had been included in the three-team trade that sent former Wizards JaVale McGee and Nick Young to the Nuggets and Clippers, respectively, last Thursday just before the NBA’s trading deadline.
After all, Nene averaged 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds in 27 games for Denver this season, slightly lower production than a year ago but still ahead of his career averages.
He also tried his best to deflect questions about rumors that this trade was partly because the Nuggets had buyer’s remorse after inking him to that lucrative offseason deal, and was all smiles as he went through drills during an optional practice along with Cook and forward Kevin Seraphin.
Instead of sulking over having to leave his adopted American home – Nene’s wife is from the Denver area and he has an offseason residence there – he is looking forward to providing a consistent low-post scoring threat and running pick-and-rolls alongside Wizards star John Wall.
He compared Wall to his former teammate, Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, because both like to push the tempo whenever possible.
“The only thing is Ty make a lay-up and [Wall] can dunk,” Nene said with a laugh.