WASHINGTON — The NBA announced that Wizards big man Nene will be suspended for Sunday afternoon’s Game 4 of Washington’s first-round playoff series against the Bulls.
With 8:28 in the fourth quarter of the Bulls’ 100-97 win in Friday night’s Game 3 of the series, Nene and Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler became entangled, with Nene appearing to head butt Butler and put his hands on Butler’s head and neck. Nene was ejected from the game, and Butler was assessed a technical foul.
While the Bulls weren’t preparing for Nene to miss Game 4, it certainly seems to give them a built-in advantage heading into Sunday’s contest, as the big man torched the Bulls for 24 points in the series opener, and his 17 points in Washington’s Game 2 win were also crucial.
“You prepare for everybody. To me, it’s like you would prepare for any game. If you don’t know who may be injured or who may be sick, so you prepare for everyone. We’re assuming everyone is there,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said Saturday, before learning of the suspension. “We have to be ready for everyone. That’s the way we’re looking at it. We’re not speculating on what might be. That’s not our concern. Just get ourselves ready. Don’t get lost in what could happen, what might happen. We know we need to prepare for everybody and be ready for them.
“We’re not going to rehash all that stuff for us. It’s lock into what we have to do to win the next game,” the coach went on to say. “Look at the game. Study. Make our corrections and get ready for tomorrow. It’s a quick turnaround. You can’t get lost in all that other stuff.”
When asked about the impact of Nene’s then-potential absence, the player who has defended him most frequently for the Bulls, All-Star center Joakim Noah, the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“I don’t think it changes our mindset, though. We know it’s a crucial game for us. Like I said, all three games really came down to the end. Just attention to detail is huge and the game in these situations is so mental. So for us, it’s just about staying focused on things we can control. Early game tomorrow. Just trying to get to bed as early as possible,” Noah explained. “As a player, those aren’t things that I can control. The only thing I can control right now is eating lunch, ice baths and sleeping, shooting free throws and things like that.”
For the Wizards, it’s likely that undersized backup power forward Trevor Booker and former Bull Drew Gooden will assume some of Nene’s minutes, though they could also opt for shooting at the position, as 6-foot-8 starting small forward Trevor Ariza has the size to slide down and veteran reserve Al Harrington could also contribute.