The Washington Post

Back from suspension, Wizards’ Nene focused on closing out Chicago

I’m focused on Game 5. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

CHICAGO – Nene declined to discuss what pushed him over the edge in fourth quarter of the Wizards’ loss on Friday against the Chicago Bulls. He didn’t want to harp on how he felt referees chose to ignore the overly physical play from the Bulls, and definitely had no interest in commenting on the NBA’s decision to suspend him for Sunday’s Game 4.

“I’m not going to talk about that. I talk about game,” Nene said after the Wizards concluded their morning shootaround at Quest Sports Complex in Chicago. “That’s what I’m going to say – about present.”

Considering that the punishment for collecting two technical fouls, an automatic ejection and a one-game suspension for head-butting and grabbing Chicago’s Jimmy Butler cost him $124,181, Nene was probably making the best decision to be silent. But Nene offered praise to his teammates for delivering a spirited 98-89 victory to take a three-games-to-one lead in his absence.

“Great, great. I was home and I was so excited, in ecstasy, the way they play,” he said. “They play with a passion. I see a lot of fire in the player’s eyes. It was a really special game under the circumstance. I always give glory to God, because people plan things but God, he didn’t disappoint me. He bless me, he bless my team with amazing victory.”

Nene was also touched by owner Ted Leonsis wearing his No. 42 jersey as a form of silent protest while sitting at his courtside seat. In the final minute of the game, Leonsis stood up to cheer when his image flashed on the Verizon Center Jumboscreen. Leonsis pointed to the name on the back on his jersey and fans chanted, “Free Nene! Free Nene!

“He’s the best boss someone can have, that’s for sure,” Nene said. “It was amazing, bruh. He’s the best owner, to do what he did. We talk about owner who could do anything. What I can say about that? I could be on court, but in spirit I was there.”

The Post Sports Live crew offers bold predictions for Game 5 of the Wizards-Bulls first round playoff series. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

The Wizards were 4-1 this season in Nene’s first game back from injury or rest in the regular season. In his past three returns to the lineup after missing at least one game, Nene has averaged 15 points while shooting 61.3 percent from the field (19 of 31). Nene is now focused on closing out the Bulls in Game 5.

“For sure, everybody’s nervous. It’s an important moment to us. It’s a big game to us. Everybody is excited,” Nene said. “I just hope we maintain our focus, doing exactly what we’ve been doing. Our preparation has been so far, so good and let’s see today.”

Chicago was successful in baiting Nene into a reaction in Game 3, but the Brazilian big man said he has learned from his experience.

“I care about control what I control,” he said. “I’m very professional, very mature about that. I’ve been through a lot of hard situation. That’s not going to get in my skin, for sure.”

Nene was a dominant force in in the first two games at United Center, averaging 20.5 points and disrupting the Bulls’ defense with his ability to hit mid-range jumpers. Defensive player of the year Joakim Noah struggled to contain him but was effective in limiting Nene to 5 of 15 shooting and just 10 points Friday in the Wizards’ 100-97 loss.

“The game is over. Now we have a new phase today and we’re going to try to do the right thing and leave here with a big victory,” Nene said. “It’s about hard work. It’s about hard work and commitment and belief. Fortunately we’ve been doing the right thing to deny their strength and we don’t need to change nothing right now.”

The Post Sports Live crew looks ahead to the Wizards' next potential playoff opponent, if the team advances against the Bulls. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)


Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.



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