Andray Blatche may have missed out on his first NBA paycheck of the season last week – and might lose out on $6.4 million if the NBA lockout wipes out the 2011-12 campaign – but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to make Thanksgiving special for some families in need. Blatche plans to join Roger Mason Jr. and the National Basketball Players Association on Tuesday to hand out 100 turkeys on a first-come-first-serve basis at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Blatche has given away turkeys through his charity foundation in the past, but he rarely had the opportunity to connect with people since he was busy playing for the Wizards. But already this year, Blatche has given turkeys to single-parent mothers, breast cancer survivors and battered woman in his hometown of Syracuse, in South Carolina and Florida. He also volunteered over the weekend at a round-robin basketball challenge sponsored by the Maryland-National Capital Park Police.
“I’m at a point in my life where I’m straight,” Blatche said in a recent telephone interview. “I’m just doing what me and my family believe in, which is giving back and always count your blessings. That’s why I’m out here doing as much stuff as possible. Even though it’s not the season, I’m still continuing to do what I’ve been doing.”
Blatche has been a steady presence over the past few months at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, where he has worked out with trainer Joe Connelly four to five days a week. Mason and Wizards teammates John Wall and Hamady Ndiaye have also trained with Blatche in recent weeks.
“They let me work out there, so I’m showing some love back,” Blatche said of his turkey giveaway.
As the longest-tenured Wizard, Blatche has been focused on taking more of a leadership role in his seventh NBA season. His planned lockout team workouts in September were able to attract only Ndiaye and rookie Chris Singleton as several other players opted to play in Las Vegas instead. But he still desires to rebound from a disappointing season and has grown more frustrated while the labor dispute remains unsettled.
“I try not to think about it, because every time I think about it, I get upset,” Blatche said. “This is the longest I’ve been without playing basketball. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do, because I want to play. I don’t want to sit around all day, being bored, working out. I’d rather be on the court playing.”
Blatche was optimistic that the players and owners would reach an agreement by now, but the delay has allowed his strained right shoulder to heal. He played in Josh Howard’s charity game in Dallas earlier this month and had no complications, as he scored 22 points. He also got to hang out with Howard, Wall, Ndiaye, Trevor Booker and Nick Young, whose Afro has become more unruly through the lockout.
“Aw man, it looks terrible in person,” Blatche said with a laugh about Young’s hair.
Blatche lives in the same neighborhood as Mason, a vice president in the players’ union, and stayed informed with the labor negotiations. Blatche was not in New York when 50 players decided to reject the NBA’s latest collective bargaining proposal and pushed the union to file a disclaimer of interest in order to pursue legal action against the NBA. Two antitrust complaints filed against the league have been merged into one and places the season more in jeopardy.
“I stand behind them and the decision they made,” Blatche said of the players in the room. “I want them to go out and get the best deal for us, even if it takes us not playing the season. We just have to go with it.”
His agent, Andy Miller, has had discussions with several teams about Blatche and the 6-foot-11 forward is becoming more open to the idea of going abroad. “It’s nothing that I’ve been pressing to do, because I still have hope and faith in the NBA. If things are about to get worse, then maybe I’ll go overseas to play for a while.”
“I’m just upset for myself and my team, more for the team, because I think we could be great,” Blatche said. “All the young players gained a year under their belt and John knows what’s expected of him. We have all the right pieces to become a great young team. We have a point guard and a center in JaVale McGee and I still see him getting better and maturing. After that, you need hustle players and scorers and we have all the pieces. I say, ‘This is going to be a great year to come out and get back to being the old Wizards that we were when I first came here.’ ”
Does he think there will be a season for the Wizards to prove him correct?
“It’s kind of tough now, after the last meeting. No telling what’s going to happen,” Blatche said. “I don’t know, man.”