[Andray Blatche takes a pre-game shot before facing the Celtics. - photo: K. Weidie]
Before today’s game, I asked Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers about what differences he’s seen in this Wizards team now from when they played the Celtics on New Year’s Day in Washington and the next day in Boston:
“The last three games they’ve play with a better spirit, quite honestly. You watch them and sometimes it just jumps off the screen. You can watch teams and their body language is better, they’re playing the right way, they’re running, they’re playing with a spirit, they’re playing with each other. It’s obvious over the last three games, watching them play. They’re moving the ball… They were the King of the Ball Stoppers.
“You know, this is the way Flip has always coached, and you can see it now. They’re actually listening and doing what probably — I know — he’s asked them to do since he’s been here. I don’t know what has prompted it, but they’re doing it.”
Doc was asked about handling the Wizards bigs, and specifically about saying last time in D.C. (for a game on New Year’s Day) that he hoped New Year’s Eve would take care of JaVale McGee:
“Yea, it didn’t… I was pissed by that. Tonight we’re hoping Saturday night took care of it [smiles], but I don’t know…
“JaVale’s just growing up as we see him. He still has a ways to go, but athletically… he was athletic before he came into the league, and now he’s putting things together. His defense is tremendous. He’s rebounding, he’s keeping balls alive. You know he’s playing right. That’s the way he should play, quite honestly. He shouldn’t get a cookie for that.. He’s doing what he should do, he’s great to watch though. I love it when young guys start to get it, and you can see he’s clearly getting it.”
[Side Note: Rivers was also overheard by TAI's John Converse Townsend before the game giving Comcast SportsNet this quote regarding JaVale: "Nick Young is playing well. Flip is going 3-guard offense which gives them more firepower. McGee, I'm scared to say anything about him." (Because of how his mother, Pamela, would react.)]
I asked Rivers about the treatment Andray Blatche has received from the home crowd in Washington — if he’s ever seen a similar experience, and what advice he would give:
“Go play. I mean, there’s no advice. I have had guys… Jon Koncak had a tough go in Atlanta, after we signed him. The contract was brutal. In his case, he played right every night, and he played hard every night. He just couldn’t justify his salary, and that wasn’t his fault, you know what I mean? So I felt awful for him, but at the end of the day, you just gotta go play, and you gotta go play hard. Listen, fans wanna see guys play for the right things. They want to see guys play hard, and they want to see guys play to win. They want to see guys play winning basketball, even if you’re not winning. And when that happens, the boos will go away.”
I also asked Flip Saunders if, with fan reaction toward Blatche, starting versus coming off the bench played a component:
“No, he’s a big boy. He can deal with it. That’s all part of it and we’ll get through it. You put the lineup on the floor that we feel is going to be the best to start the game.
“If we felt it was better for him to come off the bench, we would do that. But we’re not going to make a decision where he starts or not based on fan reaction.”