The national chattering class is overwhelmingly siding against the Wizards in their first round matchup with the Bulls. Washington is the fifth seed, Chicago the fourth.
"You know, haters are haters," Nene said following Saturday's practice. "They control their mouth or, they can't control their mouth. We can control what we can do, what we work here, our attitude, our game." "That's something that [can] change depending on us. That's what we're going to do. We're going to play hard with a lot of passion, collectively, together.
"The future, who knows the future, only God. The haters know the past, I know the present. The future only God knows."
Nene and Wizards head coach Randy Wittman surely know whether the power forward will start Sunday's Game 1 at the United Center in Chicago. They're just not ready to spill the beans, though indications are the Brazilian big man will start for the first time since Feb. 23.
The 31-year-old played a reserve role in four of Washington's last five games after missing 21 straight with a sprained left MCL. Nene scored at least 10 points in all four games including 18 in 24 minutes off the bench in Monday's 114-93 rout over the Miami Heat.
"That's a question for coach," Nene said about a return to the starting lineup. "Right now, my focus is on the players and what I'm supposed to do."
When it was his turn to meet with the media before the team headed to Chicago, the tight-lipped Wittman said, "I don't know yet. We're still deciding what we're going to do."
Trevor Booker started the final 26 games of the regular season for Washington (44-38), including the 96-78 home loss to the Bulls. The Wizards won the season series 2-1. Nene played in both victories, but not the lone defeat.
"It's been good. No setbacks," Wittman said of Nene's progress since returning to game action on April 9. "Steps that were needed. It was important to get some games under his belt obviously before moving into the playoffs. That was good we were able to do that and I thought he progressed well."
In those two games he played against Chicago, Nene averaged 14.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists, his highest per game assists average against any team he faced at least twice this season.
Offensively Nene provides Washington with a high-IQ from the low and high post, one who can score, pass, rebound and defend. That's needed against a Chicago defense that led the NBA in scoring defense.
On the other end of the court, the 6-foot-11 forward will join center Marcin Gortat, Booker and others as they attempt to bottle up Joakim Noah. The Bulls' offense runs through their stat-stuffing center, who also dominates defensively.
"He's good. What I have to say about someone who makes triple-doubles," Nene said of Noah. He's really good. Needs special attention."
While this series marks the playoff debuts for guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, Nene has lived the postseason life before. He made seven appearances during an eight-year stretch with the Denver Nuggets, averaging 10.8 points, 6.6 rebounds over 44 games. The last of those games came in 2011. Washington acquired Nene midway through the following season.
"It's a good feeling. It's a magical feeling, it's special," Nene said of returning to the postseason. "The playoffs, the atmosphere is going to be crazy."