- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hours before making his debut with the Washington Wizards, Nene was watching on NBA TV a presentation of “The Association: Denver Nuggets.” It was hard for him to watch, at least in the beginning. It got easier.

“[Watching] that gave me peace,” Nene said. “I know everything I did to work hard and I know myself. This is a new beginning.”

Nene acknowledges he was blindsided by last week’s trade that sent him from Denver to Washington, but the deeply spiritual Wizards center seems already at peace with his new team and new life. Getting a win in his first game certainly didn’t hurt.

“We are going to do a lot of good things,” Nene said. “Right now, we are just trying to know each other a little bit more. I’m excited. This is a very athletic team with a lot of talent. We do need a little more experience, but we’ll be fine.”

Nene not only brings that experience but a new attitude, and the dividends were immediate.

“I thought that was probably our most complete game as a team this year,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said after the Wizards defeated the Nets 108-89 on Wednesday night in New Jersey, the final contest of a six-game road trip.

Point guard John Wall agreed, and he pulled no punches as to the reasons why.

“We had to get used to cutting, and knowing we could get the ball back, because [Nene] hit a couple of guys in practice the other day,” Wall said with a laugh.

“We probably had two or three handoffs in the post [before Nene], but now we can cut pretty hard, because you know you can get the ball back. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. It makes the job easier for me.”

Wall’s meaning is crystal clear: Nene is an excellent passer, shares the ball and the guards are free to cut, because Nene will find them. The ball doesn’t stop, the offense keeps moving, and that makes the life of a point guard a whole lot better.

In the win over New Jersey, Nene recorded 22 points, 10 rebounds and two assists in 31 minutes.

Veteran guard Roger Mason Jr. said he plans to “temper his expectations” after just one game, but he knows what Nene has already brought to this team.

“He came in right away, teaching his positioning and footwork, just little tips to the young big guys. And it all really helped,” Mason said. “Some of the young big guys could learn a lot from him.”

Second-year player Trevor Booker is one of those young big men who will benefit from the new man in the low post.

“Nene [was] down there banging. Kevin [Seraphin was] down there banging. I’m down there banging,” Booker said. “I’m feeling pretty good, pretty confident about this team. I enjoyed this game.”

The lottery-bound Wizards haven’t had a lot fun on the court this season. The Brazilian center with the ever-present smile has already changed that.

It took him one game.



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