Wizards

Quick Links

Wizards' emotional maturity can be seen in Nene

usatsi_8540214_141983962_lowres.jpg

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]

Quick Links

John Wall, Bradley Beal react to Trevor Ariza trade that sent Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers to Suns

John Wall, Bradley Beal react to Trevor Ariza trade that sent Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers to Suns

From the front office's perspective, the timing of the Wizards' trade for Trevor Ariza could not have been better. They secured the player they wanted as early as he could be traded, on Dec. 15.

From the players' perspective, the timing could not have been worse. They had just lost a game to the Brooklyn Nets and were in the locker room when reports began surfacing on social media. Those involved, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers, had to address reporters, not knowing where they would be moving to the coming days.

Then, as the trade saga took on new forms, they rode the bus and then on the plane with the Wizards, surrounded by those they would soon call former teammates. Their phones were buzzing with messages from people asking what was going on, when they themselves didn't know.

John Wall has seen plenty over the course of his nine NBA seasons, including Kirk Hinrich getting traded at halftime back in 2011. But he hadn't seen this.

"It was kind of weird and kind of difficult," Wall said. "[We] go into the locker room and we're about to shower and stuff and we don't understand who is about to get traded, who's been traded. It was kind of a tough situation. I give those guys a lot of credit. They handled that stuff like professionals. A lot of guys could have reacted in different ways, which I have seen in the past."

As NBA Twitter did backflips over the absurdity playing out in real time, how the deal was originally supposed to have three teams and it fell through allegedly because of a mixup over which 'Brooks' was getting traded from Memphis, the Wizards were following along, on the bus and with two parties involved sitting nearby. 

"You don't see that a lot. I feel for Kelly and Austin who were put on that trip back here and not knowing what was going on," Bradley Beal said.

Like with most trades, the players offered a mixed reaction with teammates leaving, but help also coming in. They know Ariza well from his days in Washington back in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons and believe he will bring defense and three-point shooting, two things the Wizards currently need.

There was a human element of seeing Oubre and Rivers go, though, that both Wall and Beal felt. Oubre, in particular, had become woven into the fabric of the organization over the past three-plus years. He arrived as a first round pick in 2015 and grew up in their system.

"It is kind of devastating for those guys who came in and tried to give it everything they have," Wall said. "Especially K.O., being here four years, watching him develop from his rookie year not getting any minutes and coming into his own and being an X-factor for our team the last couple of years, it's sad to see him go."

Wall continued to say he wishes both players the best with the Phoenix Suns. The Wizards happen to play Phoenix in a week, on Dec. 22 in Washington.

Ultimately, the trade served a reminder to Wall, Beal and others that the Wizards have some urgency to turn things around. They are in the luxury tax with the sixth-highest payroll in the NBA. An 11-18 record after 29 games just isn't good enough to justify the resources being committed.

Wall explained in detail how he believes money was a consideration.

"The only thing I really can think of from my standpoint is that Trevor makes $15 [million], I think. Austin made [$12.65 million] and Kelly makes [$3.21 million] this year," he said.

"It was a situation where we were in a tough bind. We have three guys that are paid pretty high. And then understanding what Kelly is going to receive or ask for this summer, I don't think we have the money to match it. So, I think that's the reason why we made that trade."

This is the third trade the Wizards have made already this season. All three deals have saved them money, but this one has the highest likelihood to make a difference on the court.

The players are optimistic Ariza can prove the missing piece.

"We needed a change," Beal said. "Hopefully this is the change that sparks some energy out of us, some life out of us, that will get us to play the way we know we're capable of playing."

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Drew Gooden explains what it's like to be traded in the NBA

Drew Gooden explains what it's like to be traded in the NBA

It didn't take Drew Gooden long to learn in his career that the key to home life while playing in the NBA was to rent, not own. 

"Later in my career, I would just rent a condo six months out of the year and rent furniture," the NBC Sports Washington commentator said. "So if I got traded, all I had to do was pack my clothes, get in my car and be ready to play ball in a new city."

Gooden, throughout his career found himself picking up and going to a new city as the result of a trade (it was almost an annual thing on trade deadline for a bit) and knows well what Austin Rivers and Kelly Oubre are going through after being traded to the Suns for Trevor Ariza in a wacky weekend deal.

"The first time I got traded, I was told I wasn't getting traded. It was my rookie year," he said. "I heard there was a trade rumor surrounding my name and I heard from Jerry West, straight from his mouth, that he wasn't going to trade me. The next day I was traded. And it wasn't Jerry West who told me. It was Dick Versace was the guy who told me I was traded. That's how I learned. I learned 52 games in as a rookie so I had to pick up quick on how to adjust on a new environment."

That was the last time Gooden bought a home in a city where he played. That trade sent Gooden to the Magic as part of a deal that sent Mike Miller to Memphis.

"So right when I got in, I had guys, like Tracy McGrady, was upset about the trade because Mike Miller was his best friend," Gooden remembered. "So T-Mac didn't talk to anyone for two weeks. He was pissed about the whole trade. I just kind of played my way out of it. Right when I got there, my first five or 10 games I was averaging close to 20 points and 12 rebounds so I just kind of played myself into fitting in right away."

The next trade was a little less of a shock and it was, Gooden says, the only time he opted to pack up his things to replace Carlos Boozer in Cleveland.

"[Cleveland] called my agent and said 'would Drew like to become a Cavalier and play with LeBron James?' And word got back to me and that was an easy decision. Otis Smith, the Orlando GM at the time, was a straight shooter. He said do you want to stay here or do you want to be traded to Cleveland? I no longer wanted to be part of the Orlando Magic, so he did me a solid and granted my wishes to send me to Cleveland."

No matter what though, it's a shock to the system for players each time a deal involving them goes through.

"No matter how many times you've been traded, it's a shock, like 'wow this is happening again? It just happened,'" he said. "It's kind of hard to explain. I think the best way to describe it is if you had to leave your job right now and move to South Dakota if you want to continue in your profession. That's a hard pill to swallow. And you've got to deal with it if you want to continue your career. They pay us a lot of money, you're still playing the game of basketball, you just have other people around you now."

But, the NBA, he said, is like a giant fraternity. After all, players have been matching up since as far back as high school against each other. So it's not like you're walking into some place where no one knows who you are.

"Everybody knows everybody," he said. 

But that doesn't mean it's easy. Gooden said last night Rivers and Oubre probably learned of the trade news right after the game. There's a couple of ways things like that happen.

"You find out after the game while a reporter is telling you or your agent is texting you or you've got 15 missed calls while you're playing a game," he said. "And you go to check your phone and you know something just went down."

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: