Nearly five weeks of separation should’ve provided enough time for the hostile relationship many Wizards fans had with Andray Blatche to thaw. Turns out, it just gave many more time to clear their throats.
Blatche returned last Saturday against Cleveland and the past two games have served as a reminder that mistakes he has made in his seven years with the organization have not been forgiven. And possibly never will. Before the Wizards’ 120-100 loss on Monday, Golden State Warriors swingman and former Wizard Dominic McGuire had already been prepared to hear the vitriol directed toward his friend.
“I heard they on Dray hard. That’s crazy,” McGuire said. “What’d he do, though?”
Wizards fans could probably go on for days about Blatche’s transgressions, but arriving out of shape last season and following up a “This is your captain” speech by complaining about getting the ball in the low post in the season opener this season probably rank near the top. Blatche has become the latest target of derision for frustrated Wizards fans, having already expressed their disgust for Juwan Howard and Kwame Brown before those two were eventually traded away.
In the second-year of an extension that will pay him $35 million over the next five years — and unable to attract any attention in the trade market — Blatche is in an unenviable position: He hears silence when he makes a positive play and has every error magnified by a chorus of boos.
“It’s tough. You’re home and people that’s supposed to have your back don’t have your back,” a dejected Blatche said after the game. “Instead of encouraging you to get better, they push you down and hope you do worse. It’s not only hurting me it’s hurting my teammates. That’s what I feel most upset about because I can’t come out and perform, help my teammates because I’m letting the crowd get to my head, making me second guess, not letting me be the player that I am. It’s very frustrating I’m just hopefully trying to fight over it and overcome.”
The Wizards would like to move Blatche before the March 15 deadline, but they might have to find him another home, no matter what they can get in return, for his own good. The fans have spoken, and Blatche will continue to hear jeers for as long as the Wizards struggle.
Blatche had four points and four rebounds against the Warriors, but he often treated the basketball like a hot potato. He got rid of it rather than hear more ridicule. “Every time I touch the ball, I’m second-guessing. I’m trying to avoid the boos, trying to play a perfect game so I don’t have to hear it so I can help my team win,” Blatche added. “It’s got to the point now where I come in and sub in the boos are coming. It’s not even a point of giving me a chance. I’m going to continue to try and work. Hopefully something will happen for me, I don’t know.”
Coach Randy Wittman inserted Blatche with 2 minutes 43 seconds left in the first quarter and the boos quickly followed. After Blatche bumbled through his first stint, Wittman decided to sneak him in during a timeout in the second half. But Blatche played so poorly and looked so lost, getting beat for a rebound by tiny Nate Robinson, that Wittman had no choice but to pull him.
Wittman has repeatedly said that Blatche has to play through the distractions and he didn’t show much sympathy when asked how the 6-foot-11 power forward has responded. “I think he’s better than that. I think he can fight through that,” he said.
His teammates came to his defense after the game.
“It does nobody any good. It’s like you’re playing against your opponent, and now you’re playing against the fans, too,” Roger Mason Jr. said. “I just wish that we would get the support because as a team we’re supporting him, but it’s difficult. We’re welcoming him back with open arms, but he’s out there having a tough time playing so we just need to support him and have his back, which we do as a team.”
Trevor Booker secured the starting power forward job when Blatche was out with a strained left calf, but he stayed in contact to constantly send encouraging comments through Blackberry messenger.
To see his teammate struggle after working so hard to return has been difficult. “I feel bad for him,” Booker said. “The fans need to realize he is part of the team. If he’s out there on the court, he’s trying to help us win. They should cheer him on instead of booing him cause if they’re booing him its hard for him to concentrate and play his game.
“I think its affects us,” he said. “He’s a part of our team. We feel for him, especially me. I’m really close to Dray so I feel for him. Hopefully, something can change.”