Andray Blatche’s Roller Coaster Recovery
Andray Blatche got a haircut. Finally.
I wasn’t a big fan of Andray’s spiderweb hairstyle. So, as you can imagine, I was delighted that he introduced that maze of hair follicles to a pair of trimmers. Tweeted Kyle Weidie before last night’s game versus the Sacramento Kings:
“No more rollercoaster hair-do for Andray Blatche folks…”
Because this season has been as dizzying as an old-fashioned barber shop pole, Blatche’s haircut was of the utmost importance — it signaled a return to normalcy.
“When everything goes back to normal, I’ll have a straight haircut,” Blatche explained last week. “Hopefully my life will get in order and I’ll have a straight regular cut.”
The swirling trade rumors must have stirred Blatche up. But with a fresh cut, he’s feeling like a new man. Straight and regular, with something to prove. “Normal” has been regrettable for the Wizards this season, but hey, it’s a start … of something. That counts, right?
Enough talk. Let’s take a look at Blatche’s performance versus the Kings.
Without further ado, I present to you: Wizards Flipbook
‘Dray had plenty of highlights, dimmed by a number of lowlights.
To keep it short and sweet, I handpicked the five plays that best told his game experience.
(Click the images below to launch an animated .GIF)
“GIF” it up for Andray, ladies and gentlemen. It’s been a while since I have seen him move so quickly and with such purpose. On this play, DeMarcus Cousins makes a grown-man move to the hoop, knocking JaVale McGee clear out of the frame. Fortunately, he botches the easy layup. Rashard “The Professional” Lewis scoops up the ball and leads the break. Blatche — aided by what must have been divine intervention — outruns every player down the court, gathers a beautiful pass by Lewis, and finishes the play with a dunk. He then hangs on the rim for a good two seconds.
Blatche’s contributions came on the defensive end, too. There were several occasions where I caught him directing traffic on defense, pointing out mismatches, and further slowing Sacramento’s terrible offensive unit. On this particular play halfway through the second quarter, he was too aggressive and the Wizards paid the price. Blatche bites on Beno Udrih’s ball fake like it was a late-night burrito, allowing Carl Landry to slip to the hoop for the easy bucket. I like the aggressiveness, but there is no need to gamble in that situation.
Our favorite 6’11” power forward has developed the reputation of being a “soft” front court player. The DC Sports Bog’s Dan Steinberg published the transcript of Blatche addressing such during a recent radio conversation with Mike Wise. What he shared with the world didn’t do him any favors. Anyway, on this play in the third, Blatche shows us that he can go strong to the hoop. It’s not always 24/7 Day Finesse. After missing a short fadeaway off a Rashard Lewis inbounds, the ball deflects off Jason Thompson and appears to be heading out of bounds … until DeMarcus Cousins flies over to the sidelines and saves it. Quick turnover for Sacramento, as the ball is thrown directly to Blatche. He turns, sees that he has some space, but instead of settling for a second consecutive jump shot, he rolls into the paint. Count the bucket and the foul.
Remember those iPads the Wizards got earlier this season? The ones pre-loaded with Flip Saunders’ playbook? Watching this play left me wondering whether Blatche has grown up just a bit. Has he been studying the game? Has he been watching more film? Perhaps not, but he does do a very nice job of helping out on defense and preventing the easy baseline score. While the Kings still score on this possession, courtesy of a 12-footer from Udrih, you have to commend Blatche for his effort and awareness on the defensive end.
This play, with just over seven minutes in the final quarter of regulation, was just awkward. Again, Blatche does a nice job on the defensive end, sliding to the baseline to help Hinrich contain Pooh Jeter and ultimately picking off Jeter’s pass. Good Blatche. However, in trying to start a fast break, Jeter steals the ball right back. Stupid, unnecessary turnover. It gets worse. Jeter flips the ball to a cutting Omri Casspi. Casspi gets Blatche to leave his feet with a quick pump fake and makes the layup with contact. This is Blatche’s fifth foul. Bad Blatche heads to the bench.
Blatche was the Wizards’ leading rebounder (13), despite not playing for the final six minutes or so due to a shoulder sprain. He also added four assists, four steals and one block. He was an efficient scorer as well, shooting 50-percent from the field and 6-7 from the line.
On the other side, he was exposed on defense more times than you would like and had a few turnovers (3). Oh, there were also multiple possessions where Blatche was slow in transition on both ends of the floor, seemingly content to camp (and catch his breath) near the three-point line.
All in all, I was happy his performance last night. I would have loved to see what he could have done had he not gotten in early foul trouble, but that’s a discussion for another day. At the very least, Blatche seems eager to contribute. And he is willing to do so at the expense of his own numbers. He recognized and understood personnel groupings and acted on mismatches (read: gave Nick Young the ball).
Nick The Thriller locked up the title to the cake, but if I had a sticker and a lollipop, I would have given them to Blatche last night. Here’s to a speedy recovery and hope to see you on the court this Thursday in Minnesota.