By K.C. Johnson, Tribune reporter
The NBA suspended Washington Wizards big man Nene for Sunday’s Game 4 matinee against the Bulls.
The Bulls trail the best-of-seven series 2-1 but have momentum following Friday night’s victory, which featured Nene getting ejected with 8 minutes, 28 seconds left for head-butting and grabbing Jimmy Butler around the neck with both hands and trying to throw him down. Rod Thorn, the NBA’s president of basketball operations, announced the suspension without pay just after media access concluded for both teams.
“They still got a bunch of guys who can score, a bunch of guys who are physical, a bunch of guys who can rebound the ball,” Taj Gibson said. “It’s playoff basketball. Everybody is going to bring their A game. We’re just trying to focus on us right now, focus on our mistakes. We watched a lot of film. We had a lot of mistakes that we can correct. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Butler drew a technical on the play but otherwise remained above the fray, eventually knocking down two critical 3-pointers down the stretch.
“I didn’t want to get ejected like he did, nothing like that,” Butler said. “I can’t back down from anybody. That’s just not in me.
“I didn’t think it was that serious but obviously he thought it was. I was just saying, ‘Watch all that. It’s uncalled for.’ But I’m not mad at him. He’s a competitor. I respect the guy.”
Drew Gooden finished the game for Nene. No league discipline came for Marcin Gortat, who appeared to leave the bench area as the Bulls prepared to call timeout.
Before the news came down, Wizards coach Randy Wittman said he did not think that Nene’s actions warranted a suspension but added: “We’re more than capable with who we have on this team. That could happen to anybody. Someone could come in sick tomorrow and somebody (else) would have to step up.”
Wittman also told his players Saturday that it’s important they not cross the line.
“You can be confrontational and do it in a way that does not cost you an ejection,” he said. “Keep your composure. It’s physical out there – a lot of pushing and shoving and talking.”