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Raul Neto's offseason featured emotional family reunion originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
With an ongoing pandemic and billions of dollars at stake, the NBA found a way to make the 2020-21 season happen without a bubble and, by the end of it, with fans in attendance. But as the league's players suited up every night to entertain us all with three-pointers and highlight reel dunks, there were many personal battles behind the scenes that weighed on the individuals involved as the weeks and months passed by.
For Wizards guard Raul Neto, it meant going years without seeing his family. His parents live in Brazil and his older brother resides in Switzerland. The Netos, complete with his other brother who lives in the United States, hadn't all been together in three years.
That was until this summer after Neto got married in Utah. He had a small ceremony in the mountains just past Park City, with 15 people in attendance.
His parents couldn't make it due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, so the Neto family reunited several days later in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Neto and his now-wife flew south to celebrate with his parents, Raul Sr. and Claudia, and Neto's two brothers.
"It was nice. It was definitely [emotional]," Neto told NBC Sports Washington. "My dad and my mom are usually the ones who are more emotional about it, more my dad. They are in Brazil by themselves. We hadn’t been together for three years. It was a very nice moment to celebrate my marriage. It was something special, so it was definitely a little emotional."
The Netos spent five days together in Mexico before going their separate ways. Raul had a busy offseason to resume. On top of his wedding, he had free agency and he bought a new house in Utah, one that required renovations he had to oversee.
"At the end of the summer, I was glad I was going back to Washington and I don’t have to worry about that anymore," Neto joked.
When it came to free agency, Neto went into it knowing exactly where he wanted to be and that was back in D.C. where he had signed the offseason before on a one-year deal. The Wizards were his third team in three years and he wasn't interested in finding a fourth.
Though other teams made offers, and he was initially hoping for more than a one-year deal, he received mutual interest from Washington and that's all it really took. Neto said he told general manager Tommy Sheppard before free agency began that he wanted to stay and once the dust settled at the start of free agency, their interest picked up.
Neto, though, had gotten an indication they wanted him back in part because newly-hired head coach Wes Unseld Jr. reached out to him soon after taking the job. Neto is a tough, physical defensive player and he fits perfectly into what Unseld Jr. wants to build.
"He’s always going to compete. Regardless of the situation, he’s going to give himself up. He’s going to make winning plays," Unseld Jr. said.
Unseld Jr. saw that element in Neto's game firsthand last season when he had one of his best defensive games against the Nuggets where Unseld Jr. was an assistant coach. The Wizards beat them in Denver in part because of an open-court steal Neto made in the second half and a tough defensive stop in the final minute by Neto on star guard Jamal Murray.
Neto also had the team's franchise player in his corner. Bradley Beal was ecstatic when the Wizards brought back a guy he likes to call the 'Wolf Man.'
"I love it. 'Wolf Man' is everything. He’s my guy. He gets us going, he’s a true engine to our team," Beal said. "I love everything that he has and his heart."
Neto said the fact he had already gained the respect of his teammates and others in the organization made signing back with the Wizards an easy decision. In his experience, you have to start that process over when you join a new team.
"When a team wants you and you’re happy there, I think there’s no sense to go somewhere else," he said.