Nene has torn his left adductor muscle and, halfway through the second round, is done for the playoffs. The largest and oldest member of the Houston Rockets always felt like a throwback to an ugly turn-of-the-century style of basketball, particularly in contrast with the team’s futuristic offense. Not only does the Rockets’ layups-and-3s-only shot selection represent a commitment to the bleeding edge of basketball research, but Houston’s 50–3s-a-game approach is so extreme, so aggressively innovative, it feels like it dropped in from outer space.
Despite his old-school game, Nene played a role in that offense. He’s a convenient dump-off option for James Harden, Lou Williams, or whoever’s handling the ball. And since the Rockets also miss a lot of 3-pointers, Nene fits into the offense as a rebounder, where he trailed only Clint Capela in offensive boards per 100 possessions for Houston this year, to say nothing of his defensive attributes.
With that said — and intending no disrespect to Nene, who, by virtue of his willingness to wear dreadlocks even as he’s going gray, has proved he’s twice the man I could ever hope to be — the Rockets aren’t my favorite team to watch since the 2009 Magic because Nene crashes the boards. I want 3s. Any possession that doesn’t include at least one 3-point attempt feels like a waste, whether the Rockets score or not. Nene is 7-for-48 from outside the arc in 871 career games; when it comes to chucking 25-footers, Nene is about as useful as a nene, the rare Hawaiian goose.
In fact, since so many long-range misses come caroming back outside the paint like, well, rockets, Houston might not miss much on the offensive glass by going to the slimmer Montrezl Harrell; Nene’s per-100-possessions offensive rebounding numbers this postseason aren’t significantly better than Patrick Beverley’s. The Rockets do need to figure out how many of Nene’s 18 minutes a night they’re comfortable handing to Kyle Wiltjer, but that’s a problem for the defensive end, and defense isn’t as fun as chucking up 50 3s a game. Give me more 3s. I need 3s to live.