After Nene decided to represent Brazil in the Olympics, even though he was dealing with nagging injuries, I knew he’d ultimately have a tough time adjusting once the regular season began. As it turns out, our concerns about Nene’s health would soon be upheld.
The Washington Wizards haven’t had a very good big man in quite some time, so I was very excited about the possibility of having Nene suit up for the nation’s capital for an entire season. Unfortunately, his battles with plantar fasciitis and a number of other nagging injuries, had caused Nene to miss some significant time at the beginning of the season. Nene had missed training camp, which really affected him once he finally returned to the lineup. The Washington Wizards hadn’t had a legitimate frontcourt in quite some time, so Nene had to learn how to play with Emeka Okafor relatively quickly, since he didn’t have much time to adjust after returning from injury.
Although the coaching staff limited Nene’s time on the court for the majority of the season, he was still rather effective. Averaging nearly 13 points and 7 rebounds per game, the Wizards were able to utilize Nene’s effectiveness in the post, especially since he does a wonderful job creating for his teammates. Even though his shooting percentages weren’t very good, the conscious effort to utilize Nene in the post certainly had a positive effect on the team from an offensive standpoint. Most importantly, Nene was a major contributor in Washington’s defensive success. Nene was never viewed as an elite level shot blocker, but due to his agility and awareness, he did a great job covering pick and rolls. Other than Emeka Okafor, Nene was probably the only Wizards big man who utilized his size on the defensive side of the floor. Being able to hold his ground and defend bigger forwards is one of the biggest reasons he’s been such a successful defender as of late.
Now on to the bad stuff.
Coming from the Denver Nuggets, Nene was billed as a big man who contributed from the post, but also had the talent to score in pick and pop situations. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case this season. I honestly think his low percentages from the perimeter could be attributed to his plantar fasciitis, especially since he’s had prior success shooting the ball.
Basically, the biggest concern with Nene is his inability to stay healthy. The fact that he contemplated retirement during the course of the season is extremely troubling.
He needs to regain his health during this offseason. If Nene does return next season without any health concerns, I have no doubt in my mind that he’ll continue to be one of the most versatile big men in the league.