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Reduced role doesn't lessen Nene's impact with Wizards

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Reduced role doesn't lessen Nene's impact with Wizards

Maybe it's because of his $13 million salary and that he's hurt so often, but Nene tends to get a disproportionate amount of criticism -- from outside the Wizards' locker room -- when anything goes wrong. Inside it, they know the statistical sacrifices that he makes to help them win, and that was on display against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Coming off the bench as the backup center to Marcin Gortat, he was key to the Wizards (2-0) relieving the defensive pressure because of his decision-making with the ball in the post Friday. He made Greg Monroe work hard and kept the rebounding machine off the boards. Monroe only had one rebound in the second half.

"Passing, rebounding, scoring, the toughness, being able to guard a guy like Monroe and so that’s important for us," coach Randy Wittman said. "Getting him back, he missed a couple weeks there … from a conditioning standpoint he’s not where he wants to be. We got to keep working with that."

This was Nene's second game since missing the last four of the preseason because of a sore right calf. He was ineffective in Wednesday's regular-season opener as he missed all six shot attempts.

But the Bucks are a better, bigger and more versatile team and he came through with nine points, eight rebounds and four assists in 22 minutes.  

Nene, 33, took advantage of his matchup with Miles Plumlee early, beating him to the baseline to create for himself or teammates. With Nene on the floor, the Wizards went 5-for-5 from the field and 5-for-5 on free throws during a stretch in the second quarter when they trimmed the deficit to 65-61 going into halftime.

The second unit with Nene made the run that pulled to 94-92 on a three-point shot from Ramon Sessions. That shot was a product of Nene, coming off of his man to play help defense, drawing a charging call on Greivis Vasquez. He made a perfect bounce pass from the high post to Sessions that he failed to finish in the lane.

MORE WIZARDS: BEAL REALIZES HE CAN'T BE STOPPED

Nene hustled for a loose ball, drove down the lane and flipped the pass over his head to Bradley Beal spotting up in the corner for a three to take a 105-102 lead. The Wizards would never trail again.

"Sesh made some big threes in the corners, Dud (Jared Dudley) was making some defensive plays and Nene rebounded the ball making some plays," Wall said. "It was a great comeback and a big win.”

The Wizards open at home tonight vs. the New York Knicks (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 6 p.m. ET). With it being a back-to-back and Nene's injury history, he could see a decreased role or maybe decreased effectiveness and DeJuan Blair could get the call for the first time.

But it's because of these spurts of quality play why Nene will keep a significant role with the Wizards, whether it's off the bench or playing late in fourth quarters. There's not another big on the roster who can do what he does and most of it has nothing to do with scoring. And the Wizards aren't trading him just for the sake of it without getting a big back who can do similar things, and there aren't many, if any, of those on the market.

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Bradley Beal thoroughly impressed by LeBron James after being his teammate at All-Star Game

Bradley Beal thoroughly impressed by LeBron James after being his teammate at All-Star Game

As a member of the Washington Wizards, Bradley Beal has had many battles with LeBron James over the years, first with the Miami Heat and now with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Over the weekend, Beal got to experience having James as a teammate for the first time at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

It was an eye-opening endeavor. Beal got to see up close and personal James' abilities and his routine to maximize them. In a group of the best players on the planet, James stood out.

"It was surreal at first, just being around all the guys," Beal said. "Even just being on his team for two days, that was an unbelievable experience."

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Beal, 24, is six seasons in to his NBA career and from experience has learned how to train for the rigors of an 82-game regular season. What James does at 33 years old to stay in peak form, however, is next level.

"To see his preparation, his focus and his mentality and what he does to take care of his body before and after games," Beal said. "That's the true testament to a Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever play the game."

James actually assisted Beal's first points in the All-Star Game, a two-handed dunk in the first quarter. James attacked the rim on a fastbreak to draw attention, then found Beal with a dump-off pass for an easy bucket.

RELATED: WIZARDS HAVE BIG QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN SECOND HALF

It was an example of James' tricks of the trade. He is not just the most athletic player on the court, he is also the smartest when it comes to the game of basketball.

"His approach and his leadership and everything, it's top notch. It's crazy because you always play against him and to play with him, you get experience the other side of it," Beal said.

Beal, however, did note that much of what he gleaned from James was by watching him. At the end of the day, they are competitors and James isn't going to give away all of his secrets.

"He's not disclosing that information," Beal joked.

The Wizards happen to play James and the Cavs in their first game back from the All-Star break on Thursday night. Once again, Beal will be on the other side. 

RELATED: 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT HAS LOADED CLASS

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Walt Williams talks Wizards, his NBA career and life after basketball

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NBC Sports Washington

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Walt Williams talks Wizards, his NBA career and life after basketball

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes was joined by former NBA player Walt Williams for a wide-ranging discussion. Williams talked about the Wizards, his show on NBC Sports Washington and his playing career.

Williams also projected the NBA prospects of Maryland Terrapins stars Bruno Fernando and Kevin Huerter.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!