Do you remember the first time you held a smartphone in your hand? How did it make you feel? Empowered? Alive? If nothing else, it made you realize your slide-out QWERTY keyboard wasn't quite as impressive as it used to be. How do you go back to what you had after seeing what you could have?
The Wizards had their smartphone moment with Nene during this year's playoffs. They saw what can happen when the team has another player who can spread out the floor and attack the basket from the power forward position. Even Randy Wittman, in the most diplomatic way possible, made it clear it's going to be hard to go back in an interview with Chad Dukes, as transcribed by D.C. Sports Bog:
"We would like to add a couple pieces. I’m not gonna lie about that. We need to solidify our bench a little bit more. We were a little bit too much up and down from our production off our bench last year, so I’d like to add a piece there. You know, I’d like to maybe get a little bit better at the stretch 4, the shooting 4. We have to be able to play with those teams like Golden State.
Right now, the Wizards are at the point where they really, really want a new smartphone, but they're still locked into what they have for another year. But unlike your old Nokia 2600, the Wizards' old, clunky out-of-date device comes with a $13 million termination fee, and it doesn't appear like anyone else is willing to make a swap, according to J. Michael of CSN Washington:
The Wizards, CSNwashington.com has confirmed through two persons with knowledge of the situation, aren't expected to move him during the offseason because there isn't serious interest in the 13-year power forward who averaged 11 points and 5.1 rebounds. If Nene is eventually moved, it'll likely occur closer to the trade deadline in February when most of his salary has been picked up by his current team and maybe a contender in need of a big man on an expiring deal could come calling.
Though Nene's contract will be more palatable to other teams at the trade deadline, making a deal is still going to be difficult. First, an expiring contract will mean less next season than it's ever meant. With new TV money flowing in, the cap is expected to rise over $20 million for the 2016-17 season, so teams won't be clamoring for cap space because they'll have plenty as is without making a deal. Even if the Wizards could find a partner, the whole point of trading for an expiring contract is to offload money beyond this season, and that doesn't make sense for Washington, who needs all the flexibility they can get next season to keep the Wall-Beal-Durant-Gortat dream alive. The only way the Wizards are going to make Nene trade work is if they can find another team willing to swap expiring deals in the hopes both will do better in new environments.
The good news is, the worst-case scenario with Nene is the Wizards have to ride this out for a year, and that's really not that awful. He won't live up to his deal next season, but he also won't be dead weight. Nene could even see a little bit of a bounce back next season in a role off the bench where he's dealing with less wear and tear.
If he doesn't bounce back, oh well. This was the deal the Wizards got into when they made the trade for Nene. They got the tail end of his most productive years. He helped lift the Wizards out of the dregs of the Eastern Conference when it became clear JaVale McGee wasn't going to be a solution. And lest we forget, he was the Wizards' best performer in their playoff victory over the Bulls, just over a year ago.
The Wizards got all the benefits they were looking for in the Nene trade. Now, they're dealing with the drawbacks everyone was expecting them to face at the end of the deal. If the worst of it is dealing with Nene adjusting to a role off the bench next season as the team prepares for their next phase, so be it. If nothing else, it will help you appreciate that shiny new phone you're planning on getting next summer.