Morning tip: Like it or not, Wizards need Nene

Morning tip: Like it or not, Wizards need Nene
November 8, 2013, 8:00 am
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Wittman: "We are an equal-opportunity offense"

(Associated Press)

WAKING UP with the Wizards, who shoot around Friday morning before playing the Brooklyn Nets at Verizon Center (CSN, 7 p.m. ET). …

By all indications, Nene will be playing again tonight, and his simple presence can't be underscored.

Nene missed two games after being hurt in the season opener with a left calf strain, but he practiced Thursday after playing in his first game action since that loss in Detroit. 

While the frustration about Nene's injury-prone status can be understandable, dismissing the 7-footer as insignificant is short-sighted. Suggesting he should be cut or have been the one traded instead of Emeka Okafor are beyond silly, as if the Wizards would be better off with such a glaring vacancy in an 82-game season and that there's a plethora of quality big men available around the league. 

Fifty or 60 games with Nene or a completely healthy Jason Collins? Where's Fabrice Oberto again? 

No, Nene isn't going to score 50 points or win anyone's Ironman award. But the Wizards are pot-committed at this point. And now that they have another scoring option in the low post with Marcin Gortat, the Brazilian doesn't have to do all the heavy lifting on the offensive end. 

In beating the Philadelphia 76ers for their first victory of the season on Wednesday, Nene showed why he's so valuable and worth the hassle. 

"It's so important having him. Forget what numbers he puts on the stat sheet," coach Randy Wittman said. "It's just his smarts on the floor, defensively knowing where to be, creating opportunities, his ability to pass. Those are important things. Maybe he didn't even realize how important he is for us. That was an added bonus, no question, having him on the floor."

In 29 minutes, Nene had just 10 points on 4-for-10 rebounds, five rebounds two blocks, two assists and a steal. 

But it was his rotations on defense that separates him from anyone else the Wizards have in the low post on the roster. His block of a shot by Sixers guard James Anderson led to a run-out basket as John Wall pushed the pace and got Trevor Ariza a layup for a 7-2 lead. 

He made a pivot from the high post and fed Gortat inside for an easy basket that moved the lead to 13-6. Time and again, Nene made the subtle plays that helped the engine churn on all cylinders. As much as Wall makes the game easier for his teammates as a point guard, the same is true for Nene in the post. 

"Me and Nene are going to continue to do what we do. I'm going to fight  for the rebounds and try to block as many shots as I can," Gortat said after he had 19 points and 12 rebounds. "He's going to be the first offensive option probably going to the post, attacking from the inside. I'm going to try to play off him  and try to find the open spot and just finish around the rim. 

"He's a super unselfish guy. I love to play with a guy like that. He's going to find me. I'm going to find him. That's how you're going to win some basketball games."

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