Coach Randy Wittman isn’t sure if there is anything that he can do to help Andray Blatche ease his way onto the floor during games at Verizon Center. When Wittman sent Blatche to the scorer’s table to check in for JaVale McGee in the first quarter of the Wizards’ loss to Golden State, Blatche was serenaded with boos and was obviously shaken by the response.
He put Blatche in during a timeout in the third quarter, fans didn’t boo him until he touched the ball. But Blatche was ineffective, no matter how he was inserted.
Wittman said all that he can really do is push him to keep fighting through the jeers. “I talk to him every day. I’m just trying to encourage him. His play is going to get up there. It’s getting better. Sitting out that long, he wasn’t going to come back and be the Dray of old, and we knew that, he knew that, and it’s tough. Hey, that’s a tough situation, and I’ve just got to encourage him as much as I can and he’s doing some good things while he’s on the floor, from a defensive standpoint, rebounding. His offense, he’s got no legs right now, and if have no legs, you’re going to struggle scoring the ball. I think that’s what everybody is just kind of looking at right now, but I’ve just got to be there to encourage him.”
With the Wizards set to host the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, the arena will surely be filled with purple-and-gold, as usual, so it could feel like a road game in many ways. Veteran Maurice Evans added that while Blatche has been singled out by fans, he believes there is a message behind the mocking.
“Those boos aren’t just for him. They are for the team in general. We’re not performing. We’re underperforming and consistently underpeforming and now, there has to be some changes made. This is just something we have to rally around him.”
The Wizards have tried to move Blatche in advance of the March 15, with his $28-million extension coming back to haunt them. In the meantime, Evans said the Wizards need to do more to make the game easier for him.
“I told him to go into the post. I don’t care if you miss shots down there as a post player,” Evans said. “That’s his best asset, is his post game. Not so much his perimeter game and I think we’re doing him a disservice by putting him in a lot of pick and rolls where he’s far out from the basket. Now he’s being expected to make a play, under duress with the fans, and with the pressure and things aren’t already going well on a night when we’re down 20 points, putting him in the post and letting him get back into a comfort zone, because he can help us.”
Wait, isn’t that what Blatche complained about after the season opener?
Blatche had nine rebounds and five assists in his return last Saturday against Cleveland, but he has struggled with his shot since coming back. He has gone 2-for-9 from the field (22 percent), getting his two made baskets on dunks against the Warriors.
“We’ve got to stick in as a family in this locker room,” Wall said. “We’d love the support from the fans, but at the same time, if they are going to boo him, we’ve got to stay strong and stick with him and that’s what we’re doing.”
Former Wizards Kwame Brown and Juwan Howard had to endure catcalls in their final months with the organization, but Rashard Lewis said he has never seen a player experience the jeers that Blatche has had to endure. “That’s most definitely tough, especially being booed in front of your home crowd fans, but you know he’s got to play through it,” Lewis said. “You got to turn those boos into cheers. The only way you can do that is going out there and playing hard on both ends of the court.”