Trevor Booker isn't much for words, but he'll have to make sure his game does the talking Sunday in Game 4 with the Chicago Bulls. With Nene serving a one-game suspension, the bulk of the workload usually falls on his shoulders.
"We know how to play without him," Booker said after Saturday's practice, before the NBA made it official that Nene would be gone after he was ejected Saturday for grabbing Jimmy Butler. "He's a big piece. We have some games that we won."
Nene went down Feb. 23 with a left knee ligament strain and missed 21 games. Booker started all of those games and the Wizards went 12-9. Nene came back April 9 and sat out the second game of a back-to-back as a precaution. It was vs. the Bulls, a 96-78 drubbing at Verizon Center.
The Bulls were able to blitz John Wall and Bradley Beal with multiple defenders, not as concerned about Booker as they'd be with Nene. It worked.
Of course, Wizards coach Randy Wittman could throw everyone a curveball by starting Drew Gooden instead. Gooden hasn't played much lately, logging his most Friday with five minutes. He hasn't scored in any of his three appearances in this series led by Washington 2-1.
Gooden has more size and can spread the floor to the three-point line with his shooting range. Booker can bring the energy they'll need to match from Chicago, which has terrorized the offensive boards with Taj Gibson.
"Drew gives us an opportunity. A good rebounder for us," Wittman said in assessing Gooden's brief stint in the second half of Game 3. "We were starting to get stops again and I wanted to make sure from a rebounding standpoint we had an opportunity. Then he can make an open shot at the other end.
"When you play a team four, five, six, seven times in a row it's just a matter of cleaning up little things. That's what it boils down into a series. Offensive rebounding, 50-50 balls, turnovers. ... I'm definitely not upset with where we're at. It's time to make a few adjustments."
This is why Gooden might be a better option in the starting lineup because the Bulls can't pack the paint as easily. Before tipoff, however, the Wizards confirmed that Booker would start.
Booker matches up better with Gibson, who comes off the bench so it'll be worth noting how Wittman uses his rotation. This could be a situation where even though Booker starts, Gooden plays starter's minutes.