Nene’s Addition Makes Wizards Better Through Subtraction of Toxic Assets

Nene's Addition Makes Wizards Better Through Subtraction of Toxic AssetsIt took Nene more than four years to establish himself as a star in the NBA, despite putting up consistent numbers in every healthy season of his career. A mere two games was, therefore, far too little time for Nene to establish himself with the Wizards

Nene's home debut as a member of the Washington Wizards was not quite the grandest of first impressions. After scoring 22 points in a road victory over the Nets, Nene attempted only nine shots and scored six points in Washington's loss to the Pacers on Thursday.

The Wizards personify this type of inconsistency, and it is a characteristic Nene must contribute to changing. Nene has averaged between 13.5-14.6 points and 7.4-7.8 rebounds in each of the last four seasons, so he is remarkably consistent season-to-season, if not game-by-game.

Nene takes the place of two departed players. At the center position, he takes over for JaVale McGee, the talented but maddening 24-year-old who averaged 3.2 blocks per game but could also forget when his team was on offense. Nene also assumes Nick Young's role as the second scoring option behind John Wall, who is putting up strong numbers but seems to have regressed slightly in his second pro season. Wall suffered one of his occasional lapses in judgment on the final play Thursday, when he dribbled out the final 9.5 seconds of the game and failed to get off a potential game-tying shot before time expired.

McGee was sent to Denver and Young was shipped to the Clippers as part of the three-team deal that sent Nene to the Wizards.

Young was largely a victim of guilt by association on a roster filled with young players trying to find their way as professionals. He was a streaky shooter who never passed, but he played hard and gave a willing effort on defense, despite earning a reputation for being lazy at that end of the floor.

McGee, meanwhile, could be an absolute disaster on certain nights. He showed flashes of dominance, such as his 16-point, 14-rebound, five-block performance against the Celtics on New Year's Day or his 17-point, 14-rebound, three-block showing a day later. He was in the midst of a strong two-week stretch when the Nuggets decided to trade him, ultimately deciding his potential was not worth the headaches.

A few of Washington's major problem children remain. Jordan Crawford, a similar shoot-first, pass-seldom player to Young, and Andray Blatche, who has been told to take a seat until his conditioning improves, are still on the payroll.

But can Nene lift the Wizards, or will the Wizards drag down Nene? Against the Pacers, Wall woefully underutilized Nene in the pick and roll, which is probably when Nene is most difficult to defend, and the Wizards never attempted a Wall/Nene pick and roll on that doomed final possession. It seemed like a no-brainer to have the best ballhandler and best finisher try to create something, either with Nene rolling to the hoop. Even better, the Pacers might have switched, putting Roy Hibbert on Wall and Darren Collison on Nene. Yet neither interim coach Randy Wittman not Wall called for such a play.

This is the type of foolishness Nene will have to deal with after six-plus seasons with the over-prepared George Karl. He probably will not be able to change the culture in Washington on his own, and it is uncertain if he even has the personality to be a leader.

Unlike McGee, Young and the ephemeral Blatche, Nene at least will not be detrimental to the Wizards' development. Even a neutral influence is an improvement over a negative one.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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