Unfortunately, it sounds like Nene might be on his way out. After the season ended, there were some whispers coming from the Houston Rockets beat that the big man from Brazil might decide to retire instead of playing out the final campaign of the 3-year, $11 million deal he signed in the summer of 2017.
After all, he is coming off of a season in which he played in just 42 regular season games, his fewest since 2012. He also averaged a career low in minutes per game, at just 13, consequently resulting in career lows in points per game (3.6) and rebounds (2.9).
To top it off, he’ll be turning 37 before the start of the next season, and he’s had a long and successful run, both in the NBA and for the Brazilian national team.
He’s been a fantastic veteran locker room presence for Houston, but his time as an effective piece for any kind of extended stretch is likely coming to an end.
The Nene highlight for me this season was how well he played in limited minutes in the playoffs against the Golden State Warriors. He was a perfect 7-7 shooting from the floor, was clearly the strongest man on the court (isn’t he almost always), and led the Rockets in both offensive and defensive rating. My favorite moments, however, were when he planted the Dubs’ Draymond Green onto his fake-tough-guy behind with a hard screen and earned later-rescinded double technicals for himself and Green for a minor dustup.
Unfortunately, Golden State’s small lineup made it difficult for the aging big man to stay on the court for any real time, but for the limited minutes he received, he was one of my favorite guys to watch in the series.
If Nene does retire, Houston will undoubtedly miss his toughness on the court, niceness off of it, and the veteran acumen that be brought to the squad. He’s a true throwback.
Thankfully, Houston has been developing Isaiah Hartenstein as a big off the bench behind Clint Capela, so they already have his replacement on the roster. But if Nene decides to stay out the last year of his deal, I’m sure his mentorship, especially for young bigs like Capela and Hartenstein, will be more than welcome.