Washington must separate from Blatche, whose every move stirs boos in the team’s home arena, and he needs a fresh start after spending his entire disappointing career here.
But if there are no takers for Blatche, which wouldn’t be surprising, considering his poor reputation around the league, the Wizards should make a bold move in an attempt at closure: Send Blatche home.
Remove Blatche from the active roster. Encourage him to take a break and try to get his head together far away from Verizon Center. The Wizards should make it clear to Blatche (and more importantly, Washington’s fans) that their time together is over.
Then, sometime before next season, the Wizards could use the league’s amnesty provision, which allows teams to waive players and remove their contracts from salary cap accounting. Although Washington would still owe Blatche $23 million after this season, at least it would be done dealing with Blatche, and you can’t put a price on peace of mind.
There’s precedent for franchises to essentially fire players, even those who are physically capable of performing. It happened recently with the NFL’s Washington Redskins, who suspended defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth for the final four games of the 2010-11 season.
Usually, teams send players home during the season only for disciplinary reasons (the Redskins accused Haynesworth of conduct detrimental to the club). This season, Blatche hasn’t done anything to warrant extreme punishment.
By permitting Blatche to leave if he’s not traded, however, the Wizards would actually be helping him. His mere presence in a Wizards uniform inspires derision from fans, making an already difficult experience even worse for the struggling team.
For the seven years since the Wizards drafted Blatche out of high school, some fans have overlooked his lack of interest in improving his conditioning. They hoped Blatche would learn from his poor choices in challenging coaches’ authority and using Twitter to berate critical fans.
Optimistically, they thought Blatche, 25, would begin to exercise better judgment, work on his game more and party in nightclubs less.
Wizards supporters were eager to believe management, which expressed confidence that Blatche, at 6 feet 11 with impressive offensive skills, could become a cornerstone of the team’s future. He simply needed to grow up a little, the Wizards said.
Apparently, fans are no longer buying it. The jeering directed toward Blatche in Monday’s game against Golden State was as bad as anything I’ve seen during more than 20 years working in NBA arenas.
Blatche played poorly in just his second game back after missing five weeks because of injury, and he had another of his signature head-scratching moments, losing a battle for a rebound with 5-9 guard Nate Robinson.
Presumably, though, there was more to the fans’ frustration than Blatche’s bad performance. It was as if they were sending a message to the Wizards that this sad act has to end immediately.