By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 3, 2007
The Washington Wizards have been trying to sign third-year forward Andray Blatche to a lucrative contract this summer, but his future with the team was thrown into doubt yesterday after Blatche and an acquaintance were charged with sexual solicitation.
Blatche, a restricted free agent, was the team's second-round draft pick in 2005. He has appeared in 85 games in two seasons with the Wizards, averaging 3.7 points and 3.4 rebounds while showing signs that he could develop into an impact player. Blatche entered the league after one year at a prep school and is three weeks shy of his 21st birthday.
According to D.C. police, Blatche and a male acquaintance were arrested at 12:11 yesterday morning in front of 10 Thomas Circle in Northwest Washington after attempting to solicit sex from a female police officer in the prostitution enforcement unit. He appeared in D.C. Superior Court yesterday evening and was released. He also was wanted for failure to appear on a charge of driving without a license, stemming from an arrest in October 2006, according to charging documents.
Calls made to Blatche and his agent, Eric Fleisher, were not returned last night.
Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld, who recently offered Blatche a five-year contract worth about $12.5 million, according to a league source, released the following statement yesterday afternoon: "We are aware of this matter involving Andray. We are in the process of gathering all the information and will continue to monitor this situation. We will have no further comment."
The Wizards have held high hopes for the 6-foot-11, 248-pound Blatche since selecting him with the 49th overall pick, but his impact on the team has been minimal because his rookie season was stunted when he was shot in an attempted carjacking near his home in Alexandria. Blatche missed all of training camp, appeared in 29 games as rookie and played six games in the NBA Development League. After a strong showing with the Wizards summer league squad last July, Blatche struggled during the preseason, but slowly worked his way into Coach Eddie Jordan's rotation when a string of injuries hit forwards Darius Songaila, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.
Blatche scored at least 10 points in six games and had three games with 10 or more rebounds. During a February win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Blatche held his own against his childhood hero, Kevin Garnett, while displaying considerable all-around ability with a seven-point, 12-rebound performance. Grunfeld came into the offseason saying that his main priorities were to retain Blatche and free agent shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson, who signed a four-year contract earlier this month.
Late last night a team source said that it remains to be seen what the team will do in light of the current charges against Blatche. Because Blatche is a restricted free agent, the Wizards can match any offer made to him by another team. But so far this summer, the Wizards have made the best offer.
Wizards veterans have alternately marveled at Blatche's talent and expressed concern about a lack of maturity and decision-making.
"Andray's not a bad kid but he's young and he's going to have to grow up quick if he's going to reach his potential because it's there, everyone can see that," said one player who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "I know this has to hurt Ernie because [Andray's] his guy. He drafted him and he's been patient with him all along. Which way is Andray going to go?"
One Western Conference general manager who has followed Blatche since his rookie year said the Wizards are not alone in seeing Blatche's potential.
"He would be big for them," said the executive, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. "He was about to enter, what, his third year? He was about to graduate from young, potential ballplayer to an actual ballplayer."
Wizards Notes: The team will open the 2007-08 season on Oct. 31 at Indiana. The home opener is Nov. 3 at Verizon Center against Orlando. The schedule includes 18 national television appearances, including a Nov. 2 game at Boston against Garnett and the new-look Celtics. . . .
The Wizards have until the end of business today to trade guard Juan Carlos Navarro's rights. If a deal is not completed, Navarro will return to Spain and play for FC Barcelona next season and his buyout will go from about $2 million to $14 million. According to a league source, the Memphis Grizzlies are considering offering a first-round pick in next year's draft in exchange for Navarro's rights.
Staff writer Clarence Williams contributed to this report.