Did Washington Steal the Best NBA Deadline Trade?
The impact of adding some veteran presence to a very young Wizards team can’t be understated. There has been a marked improvement in team play and team defense and much of the credit goes to Nene, whom the team acquired at last month’s NBA trade deadline.
“You bring in a guy like Nene who has 10 years experience in the league with teams that have gone deep in to the playoffs, he has been through the battles, that experience you can’t quantify how important that is for a young team,” said head coach Randy Wittman. “He has come here and shared his wisdom with some of our young guys and solidified some of the things that we do on the floor through his play.”
Nene’s biggest influence has been on the Wizards’ second year player, Kevin Seraphin.
“It’s a great impact because they play the same position,” said John Wall. “Just learning how to face up like Nene, pass out of the post and all those little things you can use a veteran like him to pick his brain apart.”
“He has Nene helping him every day, to sit there and talk and relate,” said Chris Singleton. “He is picking up fast. He has the skills, it is just everyone can see them now.”
Seraphin has picked up just how much a veteran like Nene can help him and is absorbing as much knowledge as he can from his new mentor. The early results are encouraging.
“He is definitely helping me more because I am a big man like him,” said Seraphin. “They compare me to him. When he came here he told me, “I will help you, I will do the best I can. Now you will listen and I will try to teach you.” He is trying to help me and I appreciate it.
“The game goes really slow for him. He can see everything. Also, he creates space. He is one of those players that can create double teams and create space for you. I love to play with him because everybody focuses on him so often that he gets people open. I can progress like that.”
The big man from Cholet Basket in France landed with a thud in the NBA after the Wizards acquired him at the 2010 NBA draft from Chicago. Seraphin was injured and out-of-shape on arrival and his rookie NBA season never really got off the ground.
“Last year I came to the league and I was hurt so that wasn’t really me,” explained Seraphin. “I wasn’t really in shape. . Before I came here I used to be a really athletic player, but last year, when I came here I was slow and too heavy.
“My knee, my left knee (was injured) and I weighed too much. I was almost 250 pounds. I was really heavy and the team told me if you don’t lose weight, you’re not going to play and this year I came in shape.”
Seraphin averaged less than 11 minutes per game last season and had little to show for his effort, but this season, Seraphin planned on getting better and showing his new team what he could do. The lockout gave him the opportunity to sign with Caja Laboral Vitoria in Spain to work on his game. The additional experience was a big help.
“Yeah, (it helped) a lot,” said Seraphin. “In the Euroleague I had to understand, I didn’t just play. Now I can see the game and I can make some passes. It’s not like before. I understood the game, but not like right now. It does go slower for me, I can see better and I take my time.
“My confidence, I didn’t let it go away. I worked hard and my confidence went up.”
“He is just being more patient,” said Wall. “He always had the post moves. He is just developing the understanding of when to go and when to be patient. He can pass in the post, he can score in the post, he does a great job of rebounding and plays physical which helps our team.”
To start the current season, Seraphin was barely seeing anymore court time than in his rookie year even though there were signs his play had improved, but moves by the Wizards at the trade deadline changed everything.
“He is a guy who had an opportunity through the movement at the trade deadline to get quality minutes and Kevin has really stepped up and taken advantage of that,” said Wittman. “He is playing with a lot of confidence and has done a really nice job. That is what you tell your guys is at some point your opportunity is going to come and you have to be ready to seize that opportunity and Kevin has done that.”
In the 11 games since the Wizards traded JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf to acquire Nene and Brian Cook, Seraphin’s minutes have more than doubled to 27.3 per game and he has started six times. The result has been 11.2 points per game on 58.2 percent shooting with 6.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks and much tougher post presence for the Wizards.
“We are more physical up front with Nene, Booker, and Kevin,” said Wittman. “They are three guys who are very physical and that has transformed our defense to being pretty aggressive.”
There is definitely a more positive vibe around the Wizards these days. Even with Nene missing games due to injury, the Wizards are playing better and one could suggest the trade deadline moves were an example of addition by subtraction. Seraphin is getting his chance to play and just as important, he now has a leader and a mentor to help him improve. Just maybe this club is finally on the right track.