- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 25, 2012

As the Washington Wizards began the season, Nene was forced to watch from the sideline because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot. The 10-year veteran had the perfect vantage point from which to see the team he was brought here to help lead flounder without his presence and that of point guard John Wall.

While sidelined, Nene rarely spoke to reporters. Now that his foot has healed sufficiently to return to lineup, albeit on a minutes count, the 6-foot-11 center has plenty to say about where the Wizards are headed and why.

Deeply spiritual, Nene is known for beginning his postgame remarks with an expression of his faith. After that, he’s known to speak his mind.

“We’re losing, and it’s our mistakes,” Nene said Wednesday after a 90-83 defeat at Orlando. “A lot of things are going on right now, and we can’t look for answers. Right now, we just have to have the courage to fight.”

Nene has missed 12 of the team’s 25 games. He returned to the lineup Nov. 21 against Atlanta and started his first game of the season Dec. 22, a 96-87 home loss to the Detroit Pistons. His high basketball IQ has served the team well when he’s able to play, even though the Wizards are an NBA-worst 3-22.

He’s averaging 12.5 points and 5.8 rebounds and leads the team in free throw attempts (82). He’s doing his best to lead, by his play and his off-court demeanor, but he’s not happy with what he sees.

“We don’t compete hard,” Nene said. “We don’t do what the coach asks us to do. We don’t play together enough.”

He called watching video of loss after loss difficult but something every player had to do if the Wizards harbor hopes of improving.

“You sacrifice your time, sacrifice moments that you’re supposed to rest,” Nene said. “You do hard things for the team.”

Just a few stalls away from Nene in the Wizards home locker room is the stall of Martell Webster, the seven-year veteran swingman the Wizards signed this offseason. Jovial and upbeat, Webster is always vocal after games, preferring to put a positive spin on the Wizards’ problems.

“We’ve got some work to do,” Webster said after Saturday’s loss to Detroit. “I don’t have any doubt in my team, at all. I really love this team.”

Webster, recently inserted into the starting lineup with the calf injury to Trevor Ariza, is averaging 8.9 points and 3.8 rebounds, and is second in 3-point shooting accuracy (37 percent). He’s been on a couple of dismal teams before during his first two seasons in Portland, but nothing quite as bad as this one.

“We work hard, we don’t have the wins to show for it,” Webster said. “It’s one of those things where it’s easy to just say, ‘That’s it, I’m just going to give in’. But we can’t. That’s not in our DNA. For us to keep going out here and continue to fight, it shows you something.”

Unfortunately, what Webster sees and what Nene sees are two entirely different visions, and perhaps that is simply a part of what ails the Wizards.

After a Christmas Day practice, the Wizards will face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday at Verizon Center.

“Right now, we’re in a funk,” guard Jordan Crawford said. “We’ve got to get ourselves out of it.”

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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