Eschewing their traditional warmup tops the Washington Wizards decided to go with a look that signified the importance of playing the first preseason game in the homeland of their one-named big man. With Nene back home to play his first game in front of his countrymen in more than 11 years the Wizards donned gray T-shirts with green yellow and black lettering that read “One Game. One Love. Brasil.” Nene is a pioneer the first player from Brazil to play in the NBA but he is not universally revered here. In fact Nene got a jolting reminder at HSBC Arena on Saturday that the opposite is actually the case for many. Booed during introductions when he addressed the crowd and later as he shot free throws Nene encountered a reaction that was vastly different from what he experienced during an emotional week of handshakes hugs and smiles for the native of Sao Carlos. “What we did this week I had an impact on many lives many children. So the boos are something that happened” Nene said after finishing with five points and six rebounds in the Wizards’ 83-81 loss to the Chicago Bulls. “But you have to remember when I left Brazil I left Brazil alone but when I come back I’m coming with a team. I’m coming back with the NBA and I’m coming back with my whole family supporting me and this is something which is very important for me to share with everyone.” The game forced Nene to face several fans who have been upset with his decision to play for the Brazilian national team only twice since he was drafted seventh overall in 2002. Nene has sat for different reasons — from disputes with Brazilian Basketball Federation officials over money and insurance to injuries. One of his harshest critics has been Brazilian basketball legend and recent Hall of Fame inductee Oscar Schmidt. Schmidt known here as “Mao Santa” (“Holy Hand”) for his scoring ability remains beloved in Brazil and fans in the sold-out arena showered the man with admiration the moment he entered the building Saturday. Ignoring the action on the floor fans gave Schmidt a standing ovation and chanted his name. Later Schmidt walked to center court as a video montage of his career highlights played on the jumbo screen above and the fans gave him another ovation chanting “Ole ole ole Oscar. Os-car! Os-car!” Coach Randy Wittman had just pulled Nene before the crowd acknowledged Schmidt. Wizards teammates Garrett Temple and Chris Singleton stood to applaud the legend whom they met the day before atop the famed Christ the Redeemer statue. But Nene stayed seated and just slipped on his T-shirt.
Wizards’ Nene receives poor reception in Brazil homecoming
Washington Post | Oct 13