Wednesday's home matchup against the Knicks has a reunion quality that goes beyond the Wizards hosting their former Atlantic Division rivals.
On the court, Nene will face his former Nuggets teammates Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith for the first time in Washington since last season's trade. Playing in his fourth game this season after missing the early weeks with a foot injury, Nene had nine points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes at New York in the Knicks 108-87 win on Nov. 30 matchup.
The Brazilian big man began his NBA career with Denver during the 2002-03 season, one year before the Anthony became a Nugget. After playing together for seven seasons, the high-scoring small forward beat Nene out of the Mile High City one year before the Wizards (12-35) acquired the rugged power forward. Smith left Denver for New York following the 2010-11 season.
Led by the point-producing wing duo, the Knicks (31-15) are among the highest scoring teams in the NBA, averaging 101.0 points, 10 more than the Wizards. Individually, only Kevin Durant averages more than Anthony's 28.4 points per game. Anthony and Smith paced five double-figure scorers with 20 points each in the first meeting against Washington.
So, based on the number of years of experience playing alongside Anthony, what's Nene's advice to his teammates when it comes to defending the perennial All-Star?
"Do your best," Nene said before the Wizards shootaround on Wednesday. "I think he's one of the three best players in the league. He's getting better. He's playing unselfish. That's the reason they are in [first]...Do your best. Take it personal, take pride to defend them - and then we can talk after the game."
Trevor Ariza spent his first two seasons with New York after being selected in the second round of the 2004 draft. Wizards President served in that role with the Knicks from 1991-99.
Meanwhile the coaching matchup pits Randy Wittman against Mike Woodson. Both starred together under Bobby Knight at Indiana University.
On Monday, John Wall went head-to-head with his former college teammate Eric Bledsoe. Asked before the game whether Wall had an extra juice for his specific reunion, Wittman said, "I'm sure. I remember back when I played...We've got New York coming in here. I want to kick Woody's [butt] and he was my teammate."
The Wizards hope they fare better in the rematch. Wittman certainly has more options now that Nene and John Wall are back.
"We've got some players back. We're a different team," Wittman said.
Notes...Wittman said at Wednesday's shootaround that Trevor Booker not playing Monday against the Clippers was a coach's decision. Booker did not play Saturday at San Antonio with a sore left wrist...University of Kentucky coach John Calipari is expected to be courtside. Calipari coached Wall at Kentucky and Knicks center Marcus Camby at Massachusetts.