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.
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.