Nene doesn't always get the credit he deserves for what he does with the Washington Wizards.
John Wall and Bradley Beal grab all the headlines, Paul Pierce is a legend, and Marcin Gortat is a blog post waiting to happen every time he opens his mouth. On a team like this, it's easy for Nene's soft-spoken style to go unappreciated, especially when he's also missing spells of time with lingering injuries.
But the thing is, even though he's not always on the court, you can't discredit what Nene did to change the locker room culture when the Wizards acquired him in the JaVale McGee trade. David Aldridge made sure to credit Nene's contributions in his piece on the Wizards' great start to the season and dropped an interesting stat in the process (HT: Kelly Cohen):
After a dreadful performance against San Antonio dropped the Wizards to 2-6 out of the gate last season, Nene blasted Wall and Beal, saying they "must take their heads out their butts and play the right way, because I'm getting tired of this."
Nene's words had an impact. Ever since, the Wizards have played 21 games over .500 (59-38).
The Wizards 59-38 record post-head-out-of-butt-quote is the 11th best in NBA over that stretch (if Aldridge had waited until next week, they might have passed the Miami Heat, who have one more win at the moment, but alas). Certainly, you can point to several other areas that have gotten better, but Nene certainly helped get the Wizards' two most valuable assets pointed in the right direction.
Still, the most impressive part of the Wizards' record since that moment might be how the team has excelled, even though Nene has missed 26 of those 97 games. Perhaps the surest sign of the Wizards' growth since Nene has arrived is their ability to succeed without his constant presence. Putting the people around you in positions to excel without you actually having to be there all the time sounds like the sign of a pretty good leader to us.