Andray Blatche wasn’t in a rush to unload the ball, ignoring the basket and looking for an open teammate. He was patient, took his time to dribble and back down his defender. Blatche didn’t always make the best decisions when he had the ball, but he wasn’t passive and indecisive. And that’s progress.
He had the confidence to take questionable shots and work out the kinks without fearing the derision of an unruly crowd in San Antonio, which helped him take the ball to the basket for more high-percentage shots later. Blatche may have been noticeably fatigued but he wasn’t flustered.
“I was definitely a lot more comfortable,” Blatche said after scoring nine points with four rebounds in 17 minutes. “I tried to be more aggressive. Just trying to attack the rim. That’s one of the first games with me doing that since I’ve been back. I got to get back into the flow of things and just keep on working hard.”
Blatche missed 7 of 10 shots, but he attempted four free throws, the most he’s taken since Jan. 25, when he had 17 points and 10 rebounds in a win against Charlotte. He was rusty, as he attempted a baseline jumper that hit the side of the backboard and shot another long jumper just inside the three-point line that soared over the rim and hit nothing but glass. But at least he was deliberate with his movement, not just “playing to play” as Coach Randy Wittman likes to say.
“It’s easier when you don’t got the boos,” Nick Young said. “I’ve been on Dray since he came back, inside his head, trying to give him confidence. He came out and just stayed focused. Didn’t have to worry about the boos.”
Since he returned from his strained left calf, Blatche has had to contend with more than just trying to regain his rhythm and re-acclimate himself with his teammates after missing more than a month of action. He had to worry about the reaction he was going to get when he touched the ball ,and he admitted that it affected his play. He scored a total of just 11 points and took 14 shots in his first four games back, dropping his scoring average to below 10 points on the season.
But he really only had to contend with his own conditioning and Tiago Splitter on Monday against the San Antonio Spurs, and that was challenge enough. Still, it was refreshing that the only time he heard boos was when he was on the free throw line, enduring jeers that most players have to deal with when they are on the road.
“Just being away from home, not hearing the boos. He just went out there and played,” John Wall said of Blatche. “He was making shots and when he’s making shots, he really helps the team.”
Blatche still has a ways to go before he returns to basketball shape, and he moved sluggishly on the defensive end. But Wittman is hoping that being away from Verizon Center will help Blatche regain his identity.
“I thought he got into a little bit of a rhythm there,” Wittman said. “He’s got to continue to work on his conditioning, get his conditioning up. He gets tired and his legs get tired and you can see that as his minutes on the floor go.”
Blatche said that would come with more opportunities. “I got to get back into the flow of things and just keep on working hard. It’s coming. I pushed it to the limit, playing like that it’s going to help out a lot.”