No-no Nene, but Wizards still confident

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Nene suspended for one game after head-butt

WASHINGTON — It’s one thing to stand toe-to-toe against the raw physicality of the Bulls in the playoffs.

It’s a whole different challenge when you’re missing your big toe.

But with power forward Nene suspended by the NBA for head-butting and grabbing Jimmy Butler around the neck with both hands on Friday night, coach Randy Wittman says the Wizards are still on solid footing.

“We’re more than capable with who we have on this team,” he said a short time before the suspension was announced. “That’s just it. It could happen to anybody. … Somebody could come in sick and somebody’s gotta step up. That’s cliche, I know, but that’s the way it is.”

The Wizards had already completed their Saturday practice when the suspension was made official by Rod Thorn, NBA president, basketball operations.

Nene was unavailable for comment.

The incident occurred with 8:28 left in the fourth quarter of Chicago’s 100-97 win in Game 3, which sliced the Washington lead in the series to 2-1.

After scoring on a fast-break layup, Nene turned to run back up the court and lifted his left arm to clip Butler with a chicken wing as he ran by. Butler objected verbally and reached out with his right hand to give Nene a shove in the side.

As the two players stepped toward each other, the 6-foot-11 Nene leaned down and pressed his head against Butler’s. Then Nene clasped both of his hands around Butler’s neck.

When asked if he thought anything he saw merited a suspension, Wittman replied: “No, I don’t.”

Regardless, the Wizards have to play without their big man, who is averaging 17 points, 6.3 rebounds per game and has done an outstanding job of negating the play in the paint by the Bulls’ Joakim Noah.

The Wizards do have plenty experience playing without Nene as he missed 29 games during the regular season. Washington was 1-6 without him when Nene was shelved for two games with a strained left calf and five games with a sore right foot early in the season. But they were a more successful 12-10 without Nene in the lineup when he suffered a sprained left knee.

“Obviously, it’s gonna be a huge loss for us,” said center Marcin Gortat. “We played without Nene over the 82 games and the situation is totally different then. But we’ll see. We’ll see.

“You gotta bring it. You gotta bring it. There’s an opportunity for me to play bigger role. The inside offense is gonna go through me. I just gotta perform. I gotta be on top of my game.”

Wittman said the last thing he wants his team to do is react to the Game 3 incident by taking the edge off their game and backing down from Chicago’s rough-and-tumble style.

“I told our players, you can be confrontational and do it in a way that doesn’t cost you an ejection,” Wittman said. “We’ve seen it the first two games and nobody’s been thrown out. It’s a matter of making sure in those situations that you keep your composure. It gets physical out there. There’s a lot of pushing and shoving and talking and … it’s a fine line of crossing the line that gets you to the point of ejection or not.

“We just gotta make sure we keep our composure in that area. I don’t want them stepping back at all from a physicality standpoint. Not at all. It just reaches a line and we got to know where that line is.”

Gortat nodded his head in agreement.

“X’s and O’s are one thing,” he said. “At the end of the day physicality is the will of winning the basketball game. … There’s a time to do X’s and O’s and a time to fight and scrap and just play the way they play us. Unfortunately, things went wrong for us.”

The Wizards did manage to duck the double-whammy of losing Gortat as well. Video replays showed the center, who was out of the game at the time, leaving the bench and stepping slightly onto the court when the scuffle broke out.

According to NBA rules, any player who leaves the bench area during a fight on the court is subject to suspension.

“It’s not like I was running and yelling and screaming,” Gortat said. “I was just standing there and had no idea what was going on. At some point actually I realized I was on the court, I started taking steps back because I was like, ‘I don’t think I supposed to be here.’ So I started walking back. I was just shocked what was going on on the court at that time.”

Backup forward Trevor Booker started 45 games this season, many of them when Nene was injured. He was one of the closest players to Nene and Butler when they locked up.

“I didn’t know how far it would go. Unfortunately it went too far where he got ejected,” Booker said. “Somebody else has got to step up. He’s a big piece, but we got some games without him that we won.

“We lost focus, but we’ll get it back tomorrow. You got to do what you got to do.”

10 Comments

  1. Bkb fan says:

    Stupid move by Nene… J R smith did the same thing last year and threw the Knicks completely out of rhythm. Bulls will take the series possibly in as little as six but likely seven.

  2. jdub455 says:

    Suspension?!? Oh cmon man! What mcroberts did to the King merits a suspension… Both of them should have been suspended… I hope that the bulls lose this series, wtf suspending Nene and not that butler kid… Go wizards!!!

  3. john says:

    Stop hating on the bulls eventually we where going to when we are the better seed. And nene was frustrated because he was on lock the whole game

  4. okc2014 says:

    An experienced basketball player knows that every playoff game is key. I understand Nene is trying to man up. But that has now cost him potentially a game (Sunday) and the entire series. He is key to the Wizards winning and I hope he reflects. He’s hurting John Walls’ potential. Go Wizards.

  5. Nene is a very quiet guy and very cool I don’t think he is stupid……

  6. Polak from Poland says:

    I thought that butler was an agresor, he made first move…and I think it was a bulls tactic to eliminate nene because, “great defensor” joakim couldn’t handle with him…nba refs are some kind of bullsh…t Helllo! these are playoffs!!!

  7. Scisca says:

    Ridiculous. They are turning basketball into a sport for sissies. Seriously, nothing happened there. Americans love laughing at football (the real football) players floping and stuff, but at this point football is so much more physical than basketball. Obviously it’s not even worth to mention hockey. This discourages people from following the sport. I can’t treat these guys seriously, it’s not cool to follow such a wimpy sport. These guys are men, let them act manly.

  8. Don says:

    You cannot tell me that Nene Hilario isn’t “crazy.”

  9. cp10 says:

    Those Bulls are one shrewd bunch! Now Thibbs got what he wanted- for Nené to return to a hostile CHI home crowd. This isn’t their first rodeo after all.

    • Bird33 says:

      And perhaps Adam S and the NBA will get what they always want …a 7 game Wiz Bulls series with good box office receipts and TV ratings. I doubt they would have suspended him if it had been game 6 :-). Never forget….the NBA is a business.