Andray Blatche, Wizards need to go their separate ways
By Jason Reid,
They have continued to support Blatche despite his actions that have embarrassed the franchise, rewarded him with two contract extensions and attributed many of his missteps to youthful inexperience.
Now, the Wizards should do something else for Blatche: Trade him. It’s time for President Ernie Grunfeld to accept that Blatche should fade into Washington’s past because he doesn’t fit into the future that owner Ted Leonsis envisions.
The Wizards should move on without Blatche for their benefit while moving him elsewhere for his, because he clearly needs a fresh start away from the District.
There have been bad signs about their union from the start.
A few weeks before his first training camp as a rookie, Blatche was shot in a botched carjacking attempt near his home in Alexandria. Although anyone could be a crime victim anywhere, the incident stirred media and fan speculation, which continues, about Blatche’s questionable decision-making.
During the summer of 2007, Blatche was charged with sexual solicitation after requesting sex from an undercover officer. In 2008, he was arrested on charges of reckless driving and driving on a suspended license for the third time.
Last season, Blatche was booted from practice and suspended for a game for essentially having a bad attitude. He also was benched for the majority of another game for similar reasons on the night the Wizards’ public relations department increased its efforts to help him win the NBA’s most-improved player award.
This season, the Wizards suspended Blatche one game for his involvement in an altercation outside an area club with teammate JaVale McGee, who also served a one-game suspension. And someone writing from Blatche’s Twitter account challenged a person to a fight.
Blatche’s transgressions haven’t exactly risen to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, but his pattern of behavior doesn’t inspire confidence that he’s maturing. And that’s the problem.
No matter how many chances Blatche has received, no matter how much the Wizards hope he’ll display growth, there is no evidence Blatche will ever “get it.” At 24, Blatche is a veteran by NBA standards. He’s a senior member, in terms of service time, of a team that’s all about its youth movement.
In fairness to Blatche, he has only played regularly for an entire season since the beginning of this one. But he has been in the league since he was 19, so that’s plenty of time to turn the corner.
“’Dray is a work in progress, just like the rest of our team is right now,” Grunfeld said recently. “He’s trying and working on it. This is really the first season where he’s gotten significant minutes for the whole season.”
Wizards officials encourage you to speak with Blatche, saying he’s a good person.
Sure enough, Blatche comes across more as a misguided kid rather than a bad guy. But in discussing his Wizards career, Blatche seems unwilling to examine what he sees in the mirror.
“I’m a great human being,” Blatche said recently. “[If] somebody thinks a certain way about me, then that’s their business. It takes a lot more energy to hate somebody than to like somebody, so they’re just taking the easy way out.”
Blatche was evasive when I asked about the Twitter incident and his issues with McGee, focusing instead on the “media stuff, like that with the papers and the Internet” reports. He believes the media have created an inaccurate perception of him because “those people are not there when the incidents occur. They’re just going off of what somebody else has said.”
Accepting responsibility for your actions is a big part of displaying maturity, and it seems Blatche still has a ways to go on that front.
The likelihood is the Wizards will continue waiting on Blatche for at least a little while longer.
They’ll probably convince themselves that the broken foot he suffered in June, and other injuries that have sidelined him, are primarily responsible for his season-long setback after he averaged 22.1 points and 8.3 rebounds in 32 games after the all-star break last season.
They’ll remind themselves Blatche is a skilled, 6-foot-11 player who has displayed a nice shooting touch when he’s physically sound.
They’ll take comfort in knowing Blatche is signed through the 2014-15 season to a contract that pays him a little more than $35.7 million over five years, but is a relative bargain based on his statistical performance.
Blatche probably will return next season because of his potential and the investment the Wizards have made in him. Those have been the biggest factors in his continued presence on the roster.
Leonsis, though, wants more than potential. He wants results on and off the court.
Leonsis wants players to represent the organization in the right way to help him grow the fan base in a big way. He’s not interested in the Wizards being as good as they previously were — qualifying for the playoffs only to lose in the first or second rounds — he wants the biggest prizes.
Through their actions, the players will determine whom management should retain as the rebuilding project continues, Wizards officials say. Blatche has already told them a lot. They simply need to listen.