Before the matinee against the Utah Jazz on Monday, several members of the media kinda/sorta gathered around Andray Blatche — who vies with Nick Young for biggest locker room personality now that Gilbert Arenas is gone. But it wasn’t really in a formal, recorded Q&A session sense … just a gathering to hear whatever was on Andray’s mind as he sat at his locker.
And since it was a day taken to reflect upon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blatche started talking about his own dreams — of a basketball nature — and it seemed like nonsense. Or at least the manner in which Dray’s dreams were conveyed seemed to be in an unintentional, thinking-out-loud regard … does anyone remember when Kelly Bundy used to do this on Married With Children?
Blatche first said he dreamt of a win against the Jazz, owners of one of the ten best records in the league heading into the game, which would also mean the Wizards’ first victory against a winning team on the season and their first two-game win streak. Second, Blatche said he dreamt of a road win. A media member quipped something about the auspiciousness of Blatche’s creative mind … chuckles and an air of ‘gotcha’ emerged from the gallery, along with Andray himself. Blatche then said that he woke up, went back to sleep, and later dreamt of the playoffs.
Clearly we’re just having fun here, right? … Just jokes amongst the people who have to put up with each other all year (I think). Blatche probably has dreams of various natures involving anything from the Shadow Room to the Chipotle Burrito Dash as well. What exactly are we seriously talking about here? Playoffs Jim Mora, the playoffs.
To make his first dream come true, Blatche started out strong on both ends of the floor against Utah. Just over a minute into the game, he moved his feet and played great help defense against Al Jefferson, got a steal and nailed a jumper on the other end. He hit his second bucket at the 8:52 mark, a jumper without even dribbling, with much thanks to a quick extra pass from Rashard Lewis. Not 40 seconds later Andray was scoring off a give-and-go, assist courtesy of JaVale McGee, of all people. Sure, Blatche got his pocket picked by Jefferson while dribbling too much at the 3:20 mark, but coming out with a 10 point, five rebound and two steal first quarter always makes such mistakes easier to swallow.
Blatche was solid for the rest of the game en route to a 108-101 Wizards upset win. He finished with 21 points on 8-15 shooting, 5-7 from the free-throw line, along with 11 rebounds (four offensive), three assists, three turnovers, three steals and a season-high four blocks. Most importantly, he displayed a new-found desire to move his feet and get to spots on help defense at levels higher than before. Probably also worth mentioning that only three of Blatche’s 15 shot attempts came from beyond 16 feet (according to HoopData, 5.2 of Blatche’s 15.3 shots per game usually come from 16 feet and beyond) — when it may hurt to shoot while recovering from a sprained right shoulder, one just might take less long jumpers and end up playing closer to the hoop like has been desired all along. Weird.
Nonetheless, let’s catch up with Blatche’s dream assessment, post-game:
The Wizards close out January 2011 with Milwaukee, New York, Oklahoma City, Memphis and Dallas on the road and Phoenix, Boston and Denver at home … a slate of inception that could quickly prove that Gazo the Prankster is planting playoff dreams in 7-Day Dray’s mind from Orlando. But baby steps first.
On Wednesday the young Wizards will put budding focus and a 0-19 road record to the test against the Bucks in Milwaukee. The Bucks have lost three games in a row and eight of ten heading back to late December. A disappointing 14-24 on the season, when some, myself included, expected them to be around the fourth or fifth best team in the East, the Bucks have been dealing with failed individual expectations and injury issues — Andrew Bogut is playing through back problems, Brandon Jennings is still out and Drew Gooden just recently made a return to the court. Neither team will be feeling sorry for each other heading into the match-up.
So while we digest Andray’s dreams one at a time, let’s go back and watch a big chase-down block Blatche had on Utah’s Raja Bell in the third quarter that he surely didn’t contemplate during his wildest tossing and turning. Yes, his palm barely gets above rim, but one clearly need not fly at precarious head-colliding-with-backboard levels like LeBron to get the job done.
[This hustle play video courtesy of TAI's John Townsend.]