Wittman on starting Nene: 'I wanted to change things up'
Randy Wittman had to shake things up so he started Nene again and played him 36 minutes in Monday's win at the Chicago Bulls. It was the most time the 7-foot Brazilian, who has had right foot soreness all season, has played since Nov. 30.
"It's time. I wanted to change things up a little bit," Wittman said of his decision after Nene had been averaging about 20 minutes per game as a reserve since returning Dec. 18. "Getting off to a start here on the road was important to me. That's why I did it."
What Wittman wasn't clear about was Nene being officially cleared by team doctors to log more time, but it's doubtful this would've happened without their consent. The Wizards (17-19) led throughout, winning their seventh of nine road games and ending the Bulls' five-game winning streak.
Nene energized the starting lineup much line he did the reserves, who played better with him. Nene finished with a game-high 19 points on 9-for-14 shooting, five rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals.
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"Even when they made their run in the third quarter -- I think we missed three layups to start the third quarter -- how many times have we been slumped over, our intensity drops because we missed three layups?" said Wittman, alluding to chip shots squandered by Bradley Beal, John Wall and Trevor Ariza as a 13-point halftime lead dwindled to 60-56. "It didn't. We stayed for 48 minutes playing hard. Pushing the pace moving the ball. Twenty-five assists. That was a complete game."
Marcin Gortat only scored seven points but he had a team-high 11 rebounds. He felt "more freedom" on the floor because defenses can't key on him. That's the Nene effect. Trevor Booker, who had been starting, is back in his familiar role as a reserve where he prospered with six points. The vibe is positive again.
"You can't pre-determine anything. You can't say, 'We'll run this play and Steve is going to get a shot.' Not going to do that because they're probably going to take that away. .... That's how we ran our offense," Wittman explained about the Wizards shooting 52% and five fewer turnovers than the Bulls with 13. "Even on post-ups we wanted to play inside with Nene, is he going to get the shot every time? No. But we had good cuts, good screens away from the ball. That's what we did."