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Nene's presence beefs up Wizards on both ends


Nene's presence beefs up Wizards on both ends

Playing like a team with an attitude, determined to make up for an egregious loss at the Chicago Bulls last month, the tone was far more aggressive Wednesday. As one player explained, it wasn't a change in defensive scheme that was responsible for the 117-96 victory: "No. 42 was in the starting lineup."

That would be Nene, who took over for Marcin Gortat who had "tweaked" his back in pregame warmups. Coach Randy Wittman didn't find out until just before tipoff that he wouldn't have his usual starter there.

Nene, coming off a season-high 20 points in just 16 minutes played off the bench in a 43-point blowout of the Detroit Pistons on Monday, hit the Bulls early with pinpoint passes to cutters for layups, fouls, getting to the basket himself and draining open shots. Nene had 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting and went to the free-throw line eight times alone in the first half. 

"It's a lot smoother when you post him up. He can score in the post one-on-one," said John Wall, who posted his third triple-double of the season with 29 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. "He knows how to make passes and make plays. It makes the offense a little bit more comfortable."

Nene only took one shot in the first quarter for three points. He had a bounce pass between the legs of Otto Porter to Markieff Morris for a layup. Several other "hockey" assists occurred, too, as Nene made an open jumper for a 15-6 lead and then beat the more athletic Taj Gibson down the floor and drew his second foul less than five minutes in. He did the same thing to Bobby Portis, forcing Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to go to Cristiano Felicio for 17 minutes.

When Nene is on the floor, Porter tends to play better with him because he'll find backdoor cutters. Gortat is more of a pick-and-roll big who won't take advantage of his size and strength in a matchup with Gibson the way Nene does. 

The Wizards have won the season series with Chicago 2-1 as the race for the postseason tightens. 

Gortat started the second half at center and finished with nine points and six rebounds. Nene only played eight minutes after the break.

"Nene, I thought, was fantastic again," Wittman said. 

When the 7-foot Brazilian is engaged at this level, the Wizards have a dimension that no other big on the roster provides. It's why moving him before the season or at the trade deadline though he's in the final year of his contract never was a serious option. Nene or JaVale McGee? Where would the Wizards be if they hadn't swapped one for the other in 2012?

Nene changed the locker room culture and though he's oft-injured the Wizards are competing to go to the playoffs for the third year in a row. McGee is on his third team since leaving. Nene being at half-speed is better than McGee on full blast. 

"Nene is terrific," said shooting guard Bradley Beal. "He is able to shoot the ball, move the ball. He is always a pass-first guy. Sometimes I hate it because I feel like he is the best big who can score for us. Whenever he is out there with the starters, it's awesome. It just spaces the floor and it just creates more havoc."

MORE WIZARDS: Gortat falls out of lineup, then makes surprise appearance

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Dan Fegan, former agent for John Wall, dies in car crash

Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Caravan

Dan Fegan, former agent for John Wall, dies in car crash

NBA agent Dan Fegan, who had previously represented many high-profile NBA clients - including John Wall - died in a car crash Sunday morning, according to The Aspen Times. 

According to the report, Fegan's SUV was struck by a bus while trying to merge onto Highway 82 in Colorado a little after 9am this morning. 

The two passengers in the car - an unidentified woman and Fegan's 5-year old daughter - were airlifted to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. 

Fegan was 56.

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:


Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Another test

The Wizards continue their difficult stretch coming out of the All-Star break against a very dangerous Sixers team. Philly has proven to be very streaky this season, but right now they are rolling. They come to Washington having won their last seven games dating back to Feb. 6 when they beat the Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wizards are also playing well, having won eight of their last 11, despite their loss to the Hornets on Friday.

The Sixers are currently seventh in the East and appear on track to make the playoffs. If they keep rising the standings, they could meet the Wizards, who are currently fourth, in the first round. 


Season series

Speaking of the playoffs, this game could end up looming large for postseason seeding. The Sixers have won two of the three matchups between these teams this year. If they win on Sunday, they will take the season series and own the tiebreaker over Washington.

If the two teams tie head-to-head and end up with the same record at the end of the season, it will then come down to conference record. The Sixers currently have a better record against East teams than the Wizards. But if they can beat Philly this time, the Wizards will have a chance to secure the conference tiebreaker down the stretch of this season.


Sixers are tough to guard

The Wizards have found out the hard way this season just how difficult it can be to match up with the Sixers, who are led by two emerging stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is 7-foot-1 with rare abilities to stretch the floor and beat opponents off the dribble. Simmons is 6-foot-10, yet can lead the fastbreak with rare speed and vision to find his teammates with crisp passes.

The mobility for their size is almost unmatched and it has not been easy for the Wizards to answer. In their last meeting earlier this month, Simmons had 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Embiid had 27 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Wizards have to try to limit those guys while also dealing with other challenges like Robert Covington, Dario Saric and J.J. Reddick.