Home fans didn’t even let Andray Blatche take the floor, miss a long jumper or two, before they started booing him last night. They let loose on him during pre-game introductions and just about whenever he touched the ball in the early going. Blatche missed a 21-foot jumper 22 seconds into the game, a 19-foot jumper about two minutes later. Relentless. And after a bumbling travelling violation midway through the first quarter, Blatche saw Trevor Booker waiting to check in and started sulking toward the bench. Problem was, Flip Saunders was sending Booker in for McGee instead. Keep playing 7-Day, was the presumed message.
When asked if Blatche earned the “moans and groans” of the crowd, Saunders said, “I’m sure he did, but I give him credit because he played through it.” Sometimes to success, sometimes not. Midway through the second quarter after a steal, Blatche found himself all alone on the break. No off-the-backboard dunking like JaVale McGee, but rather, simply a barely made layup.
“If ‘Dray would have missed that layup…” jokingly chimed in Nick Young several times while Blatche, with an uncontrolled sheepish grin himself, was giving his post game interview with the media, the ability to be laid back about the whole scene thanks to a 105-102 Wizards win.
Blatche didn’t make his first jumper until the third quarter, one that brought the Wizards within six points at 59-53. Fans barely knew how to react… pre-packaged cheers were muted by surprised golf claps. But 7-Day Dray got an ‘atta boy’ from his coach in the way he battled against bruising Thunder big man Kendrick Perkins. No one knows if the boos motivated Blatche to 12 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, four turnovers, two steals, and one block in 34 tough minutes back in the starting lineup. Or maybe it was a Marine.
“We had a General come in… a Sergeant Major came in and talked to our team yesterday for about 40 minutes,” said Saunders in his post-game presser. “Just about team and what it was being in the Marines and those type of things, and having to trust your other teammates,” the coach continued. ”One of the things they brought up is when you get somebody that’s slumping, it’s your responsibility as leaders of the team — that’s everybody in the group — to help lift that guy up. Because if you don’t lift him up, he’ll destroy the team.”
Saunders was talking about when McGee missed four straight free throws late in the game that would have given the Wizards a 97-88 cushion with 1:25 left instead of a five point sliver, but the lesson also applied to Andray.
As evidenced in the video above, several Wizards, including Blatche himself, spoke about the boos last night, and also about the talk from a Marine. Jordan Crawford might have said it best:
“They was just talking about the teamwork they do, the sacrifices they go through everyday when they’re wounded, still pulling their members out when they’re hurt. It was just showing us how we got to sacrifice as a team, too.”
“That helped you guys tonight, pretty much?” I asked Crawford.
“Yea, and they played some Tupac before the game too,” he responded.
[Per @MrMichaelLee, the Tupac song was 'Hit 'em Up']