During the Wizards-Bobcats game on Saturday I saw that there was a lot of complaining about Randy Wittman’s rotations. While I he may not have figured out the best combination of players to play at any given time, most of the complaining had to do with the absence of Nene in the game – which is very understandable. The Wizards were downright dreadful without Nene on the court and he seemed to make every single Wizards player better on the court. Randy Wittman would be a fool NOT to play him, right?
But Wizards fans are mistaken to want Randy Wittman to play Nene as much as he did Saturday night. Nene played 29 minutes against the Bobcats, even though he was supposed to be limited to no more than 20 minutes. The reason that’s problematic is that he playing on injured feet that, at least according to the original timetable, weren’t supposed to be played on yet. That might not be a problem except for two things. First, I don’t have utmost confidence in the Wizard’s medical staff for obvious reasons (managing of Gilbert Arenas’ knee injury, recent Wall troubles, etc). Second, it doesn’t appear that there is good communication regarding Nene’s availability to play within the organization (read third to last paragraph). The fact that Wittman didn’t even know that Nene was going to be available makes me wonder about whether Nene just decided to play basketball himself, or whether it was an organizational decision.
I know that the organization has said that they are planning on limiting Nene’s minutes. Like many bureaucratic institutions, the Wizards are made up of multiple individuals, each with their own independent interests and agendas. And the only explanation for why Nene played 29 minutes on a bum foot is because Wittman wants to keep his job, and the only way for that to happen is to win – which means playing Nene. Who can blame him for coming to that conclusion? I saw the difference between Nene on and off the court the past two games, and it is staggering. And for Wittman, in his last chance to be a head coach, probably wants to do everything he possibly can to hang on to the position. He has a perverse incentive to play Nene as much as possible, injuries be damned.
This is a huge problem. At this point, it is pretty clear that Nene is going to outlast Wittman, and is worth a hell of a lot more than him to the organization. I actually like Wittman. He seems like a really nice guy that respects the game. But Nene is going to cost 13 million dollars per season over the next three years after this one. I really don’t want to see that kind of long-term investment ruined by a hopeless team searching for its first win. So if I see Nene get the kind of minutes that he got tonight again, I’ll be upset. And if I see any Wizards fan calling for Nene to come off the bench, I’ll just be confused.