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Wizards' emotional maturity can be seen in Nene


Wizards' emotional maturity can be seen in Nene

Before the Wizards were able to finish the Toronto Raptors in their first-round series, coach Randy Wittman had a convenient case of amnesia when asked about his team -- especially Nene -- keeping calm as the games grew more physical.

In fact, Wittman dismissed the common sense question altogether. After Sunday's 125-94 Game 4 victory for the sweep, which grew testy quickly, he acknowledged it: "We talked about it. I think there's some altercations in these other games, Cleveland and Boston. ... We didn't back down from a physical standpoint but we wanted to keep our emotions in check."

Nene became entangled with Kyle Lowry on a foul as they both went out of bounds at 9:59 of the first quarter. Lowry was trying to sell the foul and his teammate Amir Johnson ran over immediately to separate the players. All Nene did was keep his hands up as if being asked to exit a vehicle by police and walked away from Johnson. 

Nene appeared to be pushed out of bounds as he made a baseline move on Jonas Valanciunas but was assessed a turnover instead. Then in transition, DeMar DeRozan fouled Nene hard to prevent him from getting an easy basket. 

For Nene, who has a combative relationship with game officials when calls don't go his way, this was a major step. Last season, he was annoyed about being nudged and agitated in a first-round series with the Chicago Bulls. It led to him snapping in Game 3 and grabbing Jimmy Butler behind the neck, getting an ejection in a game they'd lose and a Game 4 suspension.

Lowry soon was given a technical at 6:27 of the first for arguing a foul call drawn on him by John Wall. To begin the second quarter, Ramon Sessions was fouled hard by Tyler Hansbrough to prevent a basket. It initially was called a common foul but upgraded to a Flagrant 1 upon review. The Wizards never retaliated, kept their poise and allowed the Raptors to unravel emotionally instead. 

"I felt like the way we were playing defensively we were forcing those guys to play a lot of one-on-one ball," Wall said. "The best thing they can do is get one of our guys ejected and hurt us. That’s how we lost Game 3 last year. … Nene did a great job. He was being hit and physical and wasn’t complaining about any calls and was just doing little things to help us win."

Nene also sacrificed his shot attempts and scoring to focus on rebounding which helped the Wizards get the edge in every game to finish plus-39 against Toronto. 

RELATED: [Morning tip: Pierce says Wizards have put East on notice]

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

John Wall crossed one of the biggest hurdles of his months-long recovery from arthroscopic left knee surgery on Saturday by participating in his first full practice.

That means Wall went through 5-on-5 scrimmages with teammates that included contact. He is free of restrictions.

Now it is only a matter of days before Wall is ready to return to game action.

"John did everything, he did an entire practice which was great," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he did a great job offensively and defensively."


Wall, who last played on Jan. 25 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, has missed the Wizards' last 24 games. He has been absent for 35 of their 72 total games this season.

In the months he has been out, Wall has slowly worked his way to this point. He still has to get a few more practices under his belt before the Wizards can outline a target date for his return.

Wall was aggressive in testing his knee by attacking the basket, according to Brooks. Wall was moving around well and even lost a few pounds during his time off.

"He looks great and that's not easy with time off," Brooks said. "He will be back in no time."


The Wizards have gone 14-10 since Wall went down, an impressive mark especially considering how tough their schedule shook out. Most of those games came against teams with winning records either holding playoff spots or fighting for them.

The shine, though, is wearing off. They have lost two straight games and seven of their last 11. Their offense has stalled in recent defeats and it's become more and more clear they could use Wall's presence.

"He gives us that edge," Wall said. "When you have him on the floor, you get a lot of easy shots. John creates a lot of attention when he drives to the basket... I think [his teammates] have always appreciated it, but when you don't have him around you definitely miss it."

While the Wizards continue to wait for Wall to return to games, just having him in practices helps. Brooks explained how guarding a player of Wall's caliber, a five-time All-Star, raises the intensity level of their scrimmages. If his teammates do not bring their best effort, Wall can very easily expose them.


There is also something intangible about Wall's presence. The media sees it once the doors open at practice. He is talkative and energetic on the court.

Some of his teammates even described him as "loud."

"Sometimes I tell him that he's a little too loud," guard Bradley Beal said. "But that's the energy that we've missed."

"He brings the juice. He brings the energy level up," Brooks said. "You miss his spirit. You miss the way he interacts with guys. He's fiery and competitive. He gets after guys. He cheers guys on. I like that. I like guys that show emotion and passion on the court."

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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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