Nene has strong debut, leading Wizards over NetsBy TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports Writer Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. (AP)—A decade into his NBA career, Nene turned the page and started enjoying life as a Washington Wizard—at least the first game.
Nene had 22 points and 10 rebounds in his Washington debut, and the Wizards defeated New Jersey 108-89 Wednesday night in a game marred by the third-quarter ejections of Nets’ All-Star point guard Deron Williams and head coach Avery Johnson.
“It’s been a crazy few days,” said Nene, who was acquired last week from Denver in a three-team deal that also involved the Clippers and Nuggets. “I was a little nervous for this first game, but the team gave me a lot of support, and the city is giving me a lot of support. Tonight I just tried to work hard and tried to have fun with the new players.”
The Wizards certainly made the 29-year-old Brazilian center feel welcome. They ran their opening possession of the game for him and he hit a layup. He would hit 4 of 5 shots in the first quarter and 9 of 13 in the game.
“Certainly a nice way to start with our new additions for the first time,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman, who started three first-year players and a rookie with Nene. “I thought that was probably our most complete game as a team this season, moving the ball offensively as we did and defensively we were solid. Everybody contributed.”
“You know Nene is capable of getting 20 and 10,” Mason said. “The first game, not knowing what we are doing, I have to temper my expectations a little bit. He was great on both ends of the floor. He was vocal. Some of the younger guys can learn a lot from him. He was just really great to play with tonight.”
The Nets would have liked to have everybody around to contribute in this one, but they were missing their best player and coach for the final 17 minutes.
Williams, who led the Nets with 17 points, and Johnson were tossed by referee Josh Tiven with 5:18 left in the third for arguing a non-call on a Williams’ drive to the basket seconds earlier. Tiven appeared to call all four technical fouls, getting Williams first and then the coach after his All-Star was ejected.
New Jersey, which trailed most of the game, was in contention until the ejections.
Trailing 70-64, Williams drove down the lane and lost the ball when he appeared to be hit with 5:23 to go. The play led to a fastbreak and a jumper by Wall. Williams complained to veteran official Leon Wood, who walked away. Williams then went to the bench and apparently had things to say to Tiven, who tossed him.
Crawford pushed the lead to 74-64, hitting two free throws because of the technical against Williams. After Johnson was tossed Crawford added two more free throws for a 12-point lead that was never threatened.
The Nets were upset with the officials in the first half because of two non-calls on eight-second violations in the backcourt, and the non-call on Williams added fuel to the fire.
“Unfortunately both of us got thrown out of the game,” said Johnson, who was last ejected on Feb. 2, 2011 against Philadelphia. “There was a difference of opinion and I’ll leave it at that. I think we are all disappointed but we have to get back to playing some defense.”
Williams, who picked up a technical foul on Monday in a loss to Cleveland, left the Nets’ locker room before it was opened to reporters and was not available for comment. He now has been ejected twice in his career.
Johnson refused to blame the loss on the technicals, saying the Nets allowed 14 offensive rebounds and only hit 16 of 38 shots in the paint.
“It hurt them,” Crawford said after the Wizards won for only the second time in seven games . “They were giving us free points and they were losing, and they lost one of their best players.”
Wallace did not want to comment on the officiating.
“You guys watched the game,” he said. “I’m not saying we’re the Lakers or the San Antonio Spurs or somebody, but we played just as hard as the Wizards played tonight and it just felt like they were just more favored than us.”
NOTES: Williams gave a classic look of disgust midway through the first quarter when it seemed more than a couple of players ran the wrong play. Morrow hit a jumper on the possession. … Nets backup PG Jordan Farmar missed his fourth straight game with a groin injury. … Wizards F Andray Blatche, who has struggled since returning from a calf injury last month, remained in Washington to work on his conditioning. … Johnson, who is friends with Saints coach Sean Peyton, thought the NFL’s season-long suspension of the New Orleans’ coach for a bounty system on defense was excessive.