Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/10/13
Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams planned to drive the baseline and sneak past the Washington Wizards’ defense for a quick layup, but his path was cut off by Nene. When Williams elevated the ball just out of Nene’s long reach, center Marcin Gortat came behind Nene to block the shot. Gortat had Nene’s back in Friday’s 112-108 overtime win over the Nets at Verizon Center, an example of the connection the Wizards’ 6-foot-11 towers already have formed. Nene gets to go to work offensively on smaller forwards, while Gortat focuses on rebounding and banging with the more physical low-post players. They help each other on defense and look for each other when double-teamed on offense. The bond was forged long before Coach Randy Wittman decided to start them together for the first time Wednesday in Philadelphia. Nene was among the first Wizards to welcome Gortat when he arrived two weeks ago after a trade with the Phoenix Suns. When Nene learned his new teammate’s car was still in Phoenix, he served as Gortat’s chauffeur to Dulles International Airport for Wizards road trips. “We came together on all these trips to the airport, and we drove together for 45 minutes,” Gortat said. “We talk a lot about our game, how we’re supposed to play together and fitting perfectly in this team, and I guess we’re just now trying to work this thing out.” Nene and Gortat haven’t had any problems yet, helping the Wizards (2-3) to consecutive wins since they were paired in the starting lineup and providing some confidence in advance of a three-game road trip that will begin Sunday in Oklahoma City. In the 57 minutes Gortat and Nene have been on the floor together, the Wizards have outscored opponents by 33 points. Overall, the team has been outscored by 10 points in five games. “It’s one thing to have two skilled big men in the block. It’s another thing for those big men to play off each other, and that’s big,” forward Martell Webster said. “When you have big guys down there that have a relationship and a chemistry, it makes it a little bit easier to occupy.” The on-court union of Nene and Gortat was delayed first by Wittman’s decision to bring Gortat off the bench in the season opener against Detroit, which limited them to 35 seconds of action together in the loss to the Pistons. Nene strained his left calf in that game and then missed the next two games, both losses. But the tandem paid immediate dividends in the Wizards’ first win of the season, when they punished the 76ers’ smallish front line of Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young on both ends of the floor. Early in the Wizards’ 116-102 victory over the 76ers, Nene drove around Young, spun into Hawes, drew a double-team and dropped off a pass to Gortat for an easy layup. Gortat and Nene combined for 29 points, 17 rebounds and three block shots in the win. Gortat and Nene were also effective against Brooklyn’s more traditional, physical front line of Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett, combining for 35 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks.
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