After watching Andray Blatche labor through the past nine games and struggle to contribute, Wizards Coach Randy Wittman announced on Tuesday that he would shut down the 6-foot-11 forward until he is in better condition. Blatche missed more than a month with a strained left calf but has averaged just 5.1 points on 37.7 percent shooting and 3.3 rebounds in about 16 minutes since he returned.
He played five ineffective minutes on Sunday in Memphis, where he went scoreless with one rebound, a foul and a turnover. He missed his only shot attempt, then passed on taking an open jumper to throw a pass directly to Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo. Wittman benched Blatche for the rest of the game.
“We thought we could maybe try to play him into shape once he got back,” Wittman said. “After looking at it, it’s unfair for me to put him in that position. and I think what we’re going to do, we’re going to probably not play him for a while, get him on a program here, where he can really go after it from a conditioning standpoint to get himself back into shape. It’s not fair for me to do that to the kid.”
Blatche is averaging just 8.5 points and 5.8 rebounds, the only time in his career that his statistics haven’t improved from the previous season. The Wizards were 3-6 since he came back and tried unsuccessfully to move Blatche at the trade deadline, finding no takers. He still has three years and $23 million remaining on his contract after this season.
Blatche will continue to be around the team at home games and practices but he will not travel. When asked if he knew how long he expects to be without Blatche, Wittman said, “No, I don’t. I don’t.”
The Grizzlies attacked Blatche twice in pick-and-roll situations in his brief time on the floor. Mayo used a screen to get around Blatche, but Blatche was unable to recover, forcing Shelvin Mack to chase down Mayo from behind. Jan Vesely then fouled Mayo instead of letting him get an easy layup.
The Wizards have recently added more veteran front court depth with the additions of Nene and Brian Cook, and Wittman said the team now has time to let Blatche ease his way into the fold. “We’ve got these new guys here anyway. We can look at these guys, we’ve got bodies. It’s an opportunity for us to have Dray really concentrate on his conditioning, getting his weight where it needs to be and then seeing where that leads,” Wittman said. “My thought turned out to be wrong, in terms of playing him into shape. Because with that injury, he didn’t have any ability to do conditioning and I’m putting him in bad spots.”