Andray Blatche just wants to have fun, and that was the problem


Former Washington Wizards forward Andray Blatche drives around Ryan Anderson of the Orlando Magic during the first half of a game on Jan. 4 in Orlando, Fla. (John Raoux/Associated Press)

Bye and thank you.

That was Andray Blatche’s message to Washington Wizards fans after being waived under the league’s amnesty rules. That means the team will pay him the rest of the $23 million owed him, but it won’t count against their payroll toward the salary cap. In other words, life just got even easier for Andray Blatche. Which is kind of hard to fathom.

But as hard as I’ve been on Blatche, I will say this: Nothing became him quite like his leaving Washington. (Billy Shakespeare is a Wizards season ticket holder. Heck, his theater is just down the street.)

Blatche needed to go, badly. But his farewell to the fans here — via Comcast SportsNet’s Chris Miller, showed more thought and maturity than pretty much all of his time here combined.

“My message to them is I appreciate it, thank you, please continue to support me, I’m gonna need it. And for the fans that was booing me, I want to tell them I apologize for the effort, I guess, I gave out there that wasn’t enough. And last words I can to both sides is bye and thank you.”

You can be angry at Blatche for a lack of effort even he seems to recognize. You can be angry for what seemed at times to be a lack of work ethic. You can be frustrated over those flashes of talent that were just enough to drive fans, coaches, even teammates nuts. There are dozens of reasons to be glad to see the last of Andray Blatche.

But there aren’t 23 million reasons. Don’t blame Blatche for taking the money. Like you’d have given it back? The responsibility for that financial transaction rests directly with team President Ernie Grunfeld, who wanted to give him a three-year contract extension despite the fact he was injured, and owner Ted Leonsis, who let Grunfeld do it to “show him our confidence” in Blatche.

Next time, go with Hallmark. When you care enough to send the very best, but don’t want to spend $23 million to do it.

The extension was good for $35 million over five years, which seems excessive, although compared with the value of some of the contracts being tossed about this offseason, that may seem like chicken feed . . . to other NBA players, anyway. He could still get a better deal, amazingly enough. Good thing the NBA had that lockout to get those salaries under control, because it seems to be working like a charm.

The point is, Blatche is responsible for Lap Dance Tuesdays but not for that extension. That’s on Grunfeld. And so is everything else, now. JaVale McGee, Nick Young, Blatche . . . all the problems on the roster are gone. That means all the excuses are gone, as well. Grunfeld has to look only as far as his mirror to find the person responsible for what happens to this team. If these moves, and the draft picks, work out, Grunfeld gets the credit. If not . . . well, you do the math. Paying a guy $23 million just to go away is a pretty big mistake on anyone’s résumé, one would assume.

Then again, Blatche is a special guy, and $23 million probably seems like a small price to pay to not have to deal with him anymore, especially when he says things like this:

“You know, I’m excited I get another chance to go somewhere else and prove my talent and have fun. Go back to playing the game without doubting myself and just relaxing, be fun and just to [have] fun playing the game I love to play.”

So, Lap Dance Tuesdays weren’t enough fun? Doing what you wanted to do wasn’t fun? You didn’t have a chance here to prove your talent? What was holding you back, exactly — the plethora of other talented players in Washington getting in your way?

It’s especially heartening to know that the Wizards gave Blatche a $35 million extension to show confidence in him and yet he was still “doubting myself.” He mentions “fun” three times in two sentences, which would be appropriate when you ask your child how he liked camp but not really so much when a pro athlete is talking about his future.

And that sums up the problem with Blatche: He’s not a professional athlete. He’s a man who plays professional sports. There’s a difference. Maybe he’ll figure that out somewhere else. Maybe he won’t. It’s not my $23 million, so I find myself unable to care much.

Bye and thank you, too, Andray. There, I just saved us all the cost of a Hallmark card and a stamp.

For Tracee Hamilton’s previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.

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