Even though Nene didn't want to talk to the phalanx of media waiting after Monday's practice, before the Wizards left for Game 5, don't be fooled. He isn't angry, though a little salty about the NBA hitting him with a one-game suspension and the suggestion that he's a dirty player. Nene is all smiles.
Nene missed Game 4 which proved to be an emphatic victory against the Chicago Bulls, but did speak to CSN Washington before heading to the team bus about the last few days since he was given the news following his ejection in Game 3. The two technical fouls he received for head-butting and grabbing Jimmy Butler by the neck cost him $124,181.
Banned from Verizon Center while serving his suspension, Nene sat at home with his family Sunday to watch the Wizards win 98-89 to take a 3-1 series lead. They can close out the Bulls on Tuesday at United Center where they've already won twice in this series and in their only trip during the regular season (CSN, 8 p.m. ET).
Then there was owner Ted Leonsis wearing Nene's No. 42 jersey sitting next to the bench and the "Free Nene" chants in the waning minutes.
"It was beautiful. Amazing," Nene said of the sellout crowd of 20,356 at Verizon Center. "It goes to show you, you have faith in God anything can happen. It was unbelievable to me. Really touched by all of that support."
In particular, Nene was complimentary of the play of Trevor Ariza, who had a team-high 30 points and six three-pointers, and Trevor Booker who replaced him in the starting lineup. Booker had modest numbers of eight points, a team-high nine rebounds and three blocked shots but it was his hustle plays that aren't quantifiable by a stat sheet that struck the Brazilian. He talked to Booker, who filled in for him for 21 games after Nene went down with a left knee injury Feb. 23, about maintaining that level of play.
"I told Book, 'Don't wait for me to not be there. You need to do that all the time,'" Nene said. "He's that kind of player. He works hard. He improved his game. (If) he can do that all the time we're going to be alright."