I don't think I was alone in assuming that the Washington Wizards would have the crowd behind them during their second preseason game in Rio de Janeiro, which ended in an 83-81 loss to the Chicago Bulls. After all, Nene is the first and most prominent Brazilian player to play in the NBA, and has never been shy in his adoration for his home country. Plus, the league designated Washington as the "home" team for a reason, right? So you can imagine my surprise when before the opening tip-off, Nene took to center court to thank the fans for helping make his dream of playing an NBA game in Brazil come true, and was greeted by...a smattering of boos??
Turns out that I wouldn't have been so shocked had I merely read Michael Lee's excellent WaPo piece detailing Nene's complex relationship with his home country. Basically, many Brazilians are bitter that Nene has only played for the national team twice since he was drafted into the NBA in 2002, including the country's greatest basketball legend, Oscar Schmidt, who sounds like kind of a jerk.
Oscar Schmidt on Nene: "Everybody knows what he’s does. If you don’t want to play for national team, don’t talk about your country. Ever."— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) October 13, 2013
Yikes. If it makes Schmidt and those who booed Nene feel any better, Wizards' fans would have much preferred it if Nene had actually rested rather than play and aggravate a foot injury in the 2012 Summer Olympics, causing him to miss the beginning of and play with pain throughout the 2012-13 NBA season.
No Randy, we can't get mad at you.
Anyway, as if that wasn't bad enough, apparently the Bulls are also wildly popular in Brazil, presumably because the 1990s championship teams were played so much on the nation's airwaves.
Scottie Pippen, John Paxson, Horace Grant and Randy Brown received a great ovation at center court. Bulls brand is big time strong here— chuck swirsky (@swirsk054) October 12, 2013
This was clear when after booing Portugese-speaking Nene before tip-off, the Brazilian crowd cheered English-speaking Joakim Noah like crazy during his own pregame address. The fans didn't let up during the game, either, though they apparently became confused as to the appropriate times to cheer and boo.
Nene is got booed at the FT line & cheered after he missed. Brutal. Fans cheered after he made it, though. Weird. #wizards— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) October 12, 2013
As for the actual game, Bradley Beal was the only Wizards' starter who looked mildly interested in the game, and he and Martell Webster were the only reason the team even had a chance to make things interesting in the end. John Wall struggled more than anyone, finishing with three points on 1-for-9 shooting and four turnovers.
Johh Wall's jumper is like Dr Dre's Detox album: It is never going to drop, no matter how many times we hear otherwise— Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) October 12, 2013
Glen Rice Jr., Eric Maynor, and to a lesser extent, Kevin Seraphin fueled a fourth quarter push that came up just short when Maynor's last-second three clanged off the rim. Along the way, Rice continued to excite by burying a three that momentarily gave the Wiz a 79-77 lead.
Every preseason shot GRJR makes someone one will claim he's better than Otto Porter lol— Dre Everything (@MrDCsports) October 12, 2013
Again, Rice looks like an NBA Draft steal.— Ben M (@BenAgent0) October 12, 2013
Pretty clear that Rice has outplayed Temple. Should get some regular PT this season.— Akbar Naqvi (@A_Naqvi_WoA) October 12, 2013
Only one way to settle Rice and Temple playing time: D-League cage fight to the death.— William Stokes (@William_Stokes) October 12, 2013
Glen Rice Jr. hugged Scottie Pippen before the game & the Bulls legend spoke about how much he's grown. He's lighting it up now #wizards— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) October 12, 2013
For more on the game, check out my recap, as well as postgame interviews with Wittman and Nene, courtesy of Monumental Network. Here's links to more coverage of the game and Nene's homecoming reception: [WaPo | CSN Washington | Wiz of Awes | ESPN | Da Windy City | Pippin Ain't Easy]
You can check out game highlights here.