For some time, the Wizards seemed to adopt a front-office strategy of strongly supporting their young players through struggles.
To give one example, remember when Andray Blatche was benched two years ago after refusing to take coaching on the bench? Yeah, that happened.
“We had coaches go up to him three different times, they said he didn’t want to play,” Flip Saunders said after that game. “Fifteen years, never seen anything like it. He can be [mad] at me, whatever, but you never leave your teammates out to dry like that. Not when you’ve lost 11 games in a row and you’ve got a chance to win a game. Uncalled-for. We’ll deal with it.”
What happened next? Within 24 hours, Blatche was on the court, starting for the Wizards.
The AP account: “Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders says Andray Blatche will start against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night after opting not to re-enter Tuesday’s game against Charlotte.”
Blatche wound up leading the team with 39 minutes and 17 shots.
I don’t go to team meetings, but there did seem to be an organizational approach toward being positive towards youth, at least in public.
“We extended Andray Blatche to show him our confidence in him,” Ted Leonsis wrote a few months later. “We didn’t want Andray to focus on individual stats and to be playing for a contract. We wanted him to become part of a young core that is focused on teamwork and winning. A fresh beginning....I like him. I believe in him. I know he has great upside and that he believes in his teammates.”
“He is a real big man; skilled and motivated,” Leonsis wrote of Blatche at the end of the 2011 season. “When he is healthy, we believe he is a top young big forward in the NBA. Just check the stats. Let us allow him to develop within our structure and root for his success. Being positive is good — being negative isn’t.”
Well, here comes Doc Rivers, with a vote for being negative. The veteran Celtics coach was profiled by ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan, and was asked why he played the talented Avery Bradley sparingly early this season.
Rivers absorbed some criticism for not giving Bradley quality minutes sooner, but the coach said even with the benefit of hindsight, he wouldn’t do it differently.
“You can’t hand it to them,” Rivers said. “I look at the Washington [Wizards] model, where they played Andray Blatche and those guys, and what did it teach them? That they’re going to play them anyway?”
I know, I know, easy to pick and choose and criticize with the benefit of hindsight.
BECAUSE YOU DON’T READ THE PAPER...
The Nationals surged into first place by three games, their largest lead of the season. Kilgore’s gamer from Toronto.
Mike Wise asks how LeBron James became a villain everyone roots against.
Interesting story from Paul Tenorio on the stagnation within the MLS youth development system.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
F.P. Santangelo. Hard to disagree.
Another day another W...this team is REAL good! #Nats— F.P. Santangelo (@FightinHydrant) June 12, 2012
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
Ian Desmond, everyone. And he’s right, too.
“I don’t think we’re super-hot,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “When we get super-hot, it’s going to be really fun.”
PHOTO OF THE DAY
WHAT TO WATCH TODAY
The Nats are in Toronto at 7 on MASN. The Orioles host the Pirates at 7 on MASN2. The NBA Finals start at 9
7 on ABC. All TV/Radio listings are here.
OTHER SPORTS STUFF
Krem’s Sports looks back at the Wizards’ previous eight drafts under Ernie Grunfeld.
SportsBusiness Daily: “MASN and the Washington Nationals still are so far apart in their media rights fee dispute — there’s a $70 million annual difference between the two sides, sources say — that Major League Baseball has decided to extend its deliberations by a month.”
Leonsis writes that one of Boswell’s Nats columns this week was “the most positive article I can ever remember in the Washington Post sports section!”
An oral history of the Dream Team, at GQ.
OTHER NOT SPORTS STUFF
TBD loses its last employee.
A Manassas raccoon “knocked out power to more than 4,000 homes” and then got electrocuted.
John Boehner on Luke Russert: “You know he’s so rude, so loud. He’s taller than everybody. He’s louder than everybody.”