Andray Blatche wants to get it right this time. He has made pledges before about turning serious and getting attention for his accomplishments on the court rather than his missteps away from it. He changed his jersey number before his fifth season, but two years later, Blatche realized that the path toward maturity doesn’t come through empty promises.
After determining that he had yet to truly turn his potential into more than flirtations of production, Blatche has taken some steps toward getting better. He recently hired powerful agent Andy Miller after going without representation for all of what turned out to be a difficult season — even after he had secured a lucrative extension with the Wizards. And he also decided to separate himself from people who weren’t interested in his personal development.
Blatche has been more visible with his community projects this summer. He spent most of his offseason working out in Miami, with the hope that the results will be noticeable in the upcoming season.
“I’m 25 years old,” said Blatche, who celebrated his birthday last month with John Wall, Hamady Ndiaye, Josh Howard and Trevor Booker in South Beach. “I’ve been in the league six years now. I know my goal. I want to be an all-star. And to be an all-star, I have to make changes, and those are the changes that I have to make now.
“I took the time to cut back on some friends and some people, and built myself around better people that know what’s best for me,” he said. “I’m sorry that it took so long for me to realize it, but it’s all about growing and maturing and that’s basically what I’m doing.”
Blatche returned to the D.C. area this week to take part in a community outreach program with the SHABACH! Ministries in Landover on Saturday. He also organized some workouts for his teammates at a Clarksville gym from Monday to Wednesday, as the NBA lockout has kept players away from their usual routine at Verizon Center. Blatche brought his personal trainer, Ed Downs, up from Miami to work on strength and core exercises and hired local trainer Joe Connelly, who helped Blatche rehab from his strained shoulder last season, to run the players through basketball drills.
He said he expects to have Wall, Ndiaye, Nick Young, Rashard Lewis, and Wizards draft pick Chris Singleton participate. Blatche said Young, Wall and Lewis would come and work out before leaving for Las Vegas to play in the Impact Basketball Competitive Training Series. JaVale McGee planned to come to Washington for the workouts, but Blatche said McGee elected to take part in the NBA workouts in Las Vegas instead.
“We have to start now,” Blatche said. “We should get a head start, start working out now together, get our chemistry together and be around each other a lot more. So that when the season comes, we’ll be in shape, we’ll be fast, we’ll be crisp. That’s my goal, my vision for us.”
Blatche said he attended a handful of playoff games, along with an NBA Finals game, in Miami and came away motivated to get back to the postseason, with the Wizards averaging just 22.6 wins the past three seasons.
“That’s the best basketball, if you ask me,” Blatche said. “The atmosphere is crazy. I’ve been to the playoffs before. I didn’t play as much, but I see how it is. That’s something that you want to be a part of. That’s one of my main reasons of having this workout now because last season, we were one of the worst teams in the league and we easily shouldn’t have been, because we have great pieces. We have a great point guard. We have a JaVale. He’s an up-and-coming center who can block shots. We have great scorers between Nick and [Jordan] Crawford. We have all good pieces. Now I feel we have to have a good summer and come together as a team. I look at us, like Oklahoma, they was in a situation like us. Atlanta, with Josh Smith, Joe and Marvin Williams. They was young, grew together and became a great team. I see we have the same opportunity.”
Although Blatche posted career-high numbers in scoring (16.8 points) and rebounding (8.3), he wasn’t satisfied, especially as he never got in proper physical shape after breaking his foot and having surgery last summer. He injured his shoulder late in the season but finished strong. His season was overshadowed by a few off-court incidents, though, including an altercation with McGee at an area club that resulted in a one-game suspension. He also appeared to regress after showing some promise after being finally getting a starting job after Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood were traded.
“Last year was tough, due the foot. Most players use the summer to play and get into rhythm and get in shape. Last year, I wasn’t able to, because I had a broken foot, so that really affected me a lot,” Blatche said. “My rhythm was off, shot was off, everything was off. So that was a very tough season for me, probably my toughest. That was like really my first real major injury in the NBA, so that was tough for me.”
Blatche hasn’t hit the summer league circuit, nor has he visited Barry Farm as he once did. He has been training in South Florida with other NBA players, working out at the University of Miami or area high schools and playing pickup games with Brandon Rush, Jarrett Jack, James Posey, Juwan Howard and Joey Dorsey, among others. He had to slow down some after developing soreness in the same shoulder that caused him problems last season. The lockout has prohibited Blatche from contacting Wizards trainers, which he said is “definitely tough,” but he had an MRI last month and his doctor told him to take “a little rest and give it a go.”
“I’m still getting over my injury with my shoulder. It comes and goes, acts up every now and then, so I’m really just working on that. I’ll end up hiring a personal masseuse, who comes down and stretches it and strengthens it, so by the time the lockout is over, I should be ready to go,” Blatche said. “So me, playing with my teammates [next week], I’ll be shooting again with my shoulder.”
Blatche believes that he has had very productive summer, but is disappointed about the negative publicity that came from him hosting a party in Miami called, “Lapdance Tuesday.” Owner Ted Leonsis criticized Blatche for attaching his name to the event, but Blatche said the whole incident was completely overblown.
“That’s the one thing that kind of got me frustrated,” he said. “People were like, ‘Aw, he’s at a strip club!’ Or ‘He’s at a party where they give lap dances!’ That was far from the case. It wasn’t even close to the case. Everybody down in Miami knows that on Tuesday nights it’s a club called Cameo. It’s a club. Like if you go to Park, Josephine or Love here. On Tuesdays, it’s their theme. That’s how it is. It was a regular club. There were no lap dances involved. Nobody got no lap dances, no nothing.
“Why is everybody tripping on me hosting a party?” Blatche asked. “I host parties in D.C. all the time and I get no problem out of it. I went to Miami and it’s the offseason. The season is over. I’m just at a party and I get this. That was the craziest thing. I was like, I must have a target on my back, because if I can’t go to Miami and host a party and have fun with my friends, what can I do?”
Blatche would rather get more attention for his community work. He has already been to Jamaica for a second time to teach basketball skills and provide school supplies for children. He’s been to Syracuse, N.Y., to run a camp for kids in his hometown for the fourth year and remind them that they can get out of dire situations if he could. And after giving away groceries, clothing and toys with SHABACH! Ministries in Landover, Blatche will host 15 military personnel and their guests aboard the USS Sequoia Presidential Yacht on Sept. 30. He plans to make a donation to build a recreational room at the Wounded Warrior and Family Center, which is under construction at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.
“I’m very fond of community work. I like to help out, show my face and basically spend time with kids and give them hope,” Blatche said, crediting his mother, Angela Oliver, for reminding him to always give back to those less fortunate.
Blatche said he has made the most of this offseason and stayed busy. “I’ve been focusing on getting my shoulder back right, health, family, just taking the opportunity to do a lot of things, even though it’s a lockou,” he said. “I’m doing as much as possible. It’s been like a regular summer for me, but I have more time to do more things, more time to get ready for the season when the season comes. It’s been a fun summer for me, actually.”