[NOTE: Truth About It.net 2011-12 Player Reviews continue, where we take a look at the past, present and future of those players who have touched the Wizards franchise during the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season. Now, we could quite possibly be beating a dead horse that could get up and start trotting. That's right... Andray Blatche. TAI's Dan Diamond, Adam McGinnis, Rashad Mobley, and Sam Permutt contemplate the last you may have seen of the bad guy. -Kyle W.]
Criticism of Andray Blatche has been unabashed, perhaps filled with too much vitriol at times, and I’m including myself in this pack, obviously. That being said, it’s human nature to feel sorry for the guy, sometimes.
One of the first things I realized upon starting to cover the Wizards with media credentials prior to the 2009-10 season was that Blatche — the way he carried himself, interacted with the media, his general goofiness with teammates in the locker room — is not a bad guy. Certainly no one would confuse himself with notorious a-holes like Rasheed Wallace or Bonzi Wells. But in most senses, Blatche the basketball player — the guy who has trouble staying focused on the little things, rebounding with toughness, not emitting laziness, playing with heart — has justifiably brought all the criticism upon Blatche the person.
He suffers, personally, yet he still hosts parties and invites more critique. Awareness of public perception, much less ideals of being a good, lead-by-example teammate on the floor, are lost upon Blatche in major ways. We are approaching “it is what it is” purgatory with Andray, in that he’ll never fully realize even mere fractions of his talent.
“It is unclear whether the team will decide to move Andray Blatche, who despite the tough season is a very talented player. However, having talent isn’t enough,” wrote Blatche’s former teammate Etan Thomas in a special piece for ESPN.com today; the Poet was encouraging Wizards fans to have hope.
The shutting down of Andray Blatche for “conditioning” meant less jeers being thrown about the Verizon Center, as the power forward has been infamously booed by the hometown crowd almost all season. Fans sometimes express displeasure for their team (or an individual) after a bad play or sequence, but the audible disgust for 7-Day Dray would start when he went to the scorer’s table to check in and again every time he touched the ball. It even seemed like the Wizards coaching staff would sneak him into the game during timeouts to avoid igniting the negative reaction. Wizards opponents indicated they had never seen such behavior by home fans, and many gave Blatche advice on how to deal with his unpopular aura. TAI’s John Converse Townsend even penned a compelling piece on how his own booing of Blatche as a fan seemed counter-intuitive.
This unfortunate storyline overshadowed the fact that there are actual opposing players that Wizards fans still heckle on a regular basis; the normal way crowds are supposed to do it.
Ex-Wizard Kwame Brown has been a target for years; Wizards fans of a certain age will never forget that he was a bust as a No. 1 overall draft pick. For being the playoff adversary to Agent Zero and the Wizards back in the mid-2000s, Lebron James is still lustily yelled at; his decision-quest from the Cavaliers to the Heat simply propelled how Wizards fans felt to mass audiences. Even the presence of Juwan Howard can still spark bad memories of him never living up to his egregious contract in Washington. And surprisingly, Indiana Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough has heard it from fans in the Phone Booth this season, which one would assume derives from his days at North Carolina and “Psycho T” being a relatively unlikable player in Maryland Terp country.
ShareBullets… a run-down of commentary on recent Wizards subjects, and links…
Kobe on the Rebuild in Washington.
The below video is a bit old… it’s from the Los Angeles Lakers locker room after they lost to the Wizards in D.C. on March 7 (The Lakers said WHAT?); Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher speak in the video, sort of. Kobe tries his best to keep his answers to one word (he’s even asked by if his post-game media session in Washington is the most “Belichick” he’s ever been), Gasol says the loss was “embarrassing,” and Fisher, playing in his final loss as a Laker, says, “I’ve been around long enough to realize that you can’t allow yourself to be defined by the changing opinions of the critics or media personal that cover our game.”
The most pertinent question for Wizards fans, however, is when Kobe’s asked what needs to happen in Washington to get the franchise to the point of respectability. “Got to make the right decisions,” said Kobe plainly. “You got to make the right decisions from a management standpoint, the players you bring in here. That’s all it is, just making the right choices.” With calls for Ernie Grunfeld’s job reaching the generic sports column platform of the Washington Post, you have to wonder how the current team president’s track record of decision-making has been evaluated by current team ownership.
Andray Blatche is out 3-5 weeks with a strained left calf muscle, Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman announced prior to tonight’s game. In the locker room a couple hours before facing the Chicago Bulls, John Wall spoke with the media about life, for the time being, without ‘Dray.
Q: How do you replace Blatche’s points?
WALL: “Look for Jan [Vesely], Book [Trevor Booker], Kevin [Seraphin], and each of those guys to step up in that role and play the four position… Just do the best they can. We’re not telling them to be ‘Dray [Blatche], but just be the player they is and do the right thing to help us out. You’re going to lose a lot of points from ‘Dray, but you can bring out the assets on the defensive end with the other guys. So they can still help us.”
Q: How does the offense change without the skill set Blatche provides as a big man?Read more »
I have a confession to make: I have booed Andray Blatche. I’m not proud of it, but it happened.
It was a Friday night, and the Washington Wizards, coming off an improbable 105-102 win over Kevin Durant and the Thunder, were hosting the Denver Nuggets. Having won just two games all year, the wretched Wizards were good for a cheap punchline or two every few hours. But they weren’t just the butt of jokes; all-knowing pundits smelled blood in the water and gnashed their teeth in response — even those who had previously supported the Wizards.
“So they don’t have that much talent,” said a presumably well-layered Michael Wilbon on the Scott Van Pelt Show; the very same Wilbon who once maintained the Wizards were on the right track to march deep into the playoffs.
This won’t be any easier for you than it is for us.
What you are about to read is a hypothetical conversation between a representative of the player personnel management of the Washington Wizards and of the San Antonio Spurs. Those representatives could be Ernie Grunfeld and R.C. Burford, they could be anyone. Their roles are, however, played by Kyle Weidie of Truth About It.net and Tim Varner of TrueHoop Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell. Their conversation is about Andray Blatche.
MONDAY, JANUARY 16
[The Spurs are currently 9-3, having beaten the Phoenix Suns at home by 11 on Sunday; the Wizards are 1-11, having lost to the Philadelphia for the second time in a row on Saturday.]
[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.”
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.