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Wizards Fulfill a Priority, Sign Blatche to Extension

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Washington Wizards signed free agent forward Andray Blatche to a multiyear contract extension yesterday, the team announced.

Terms of the deal were not available.

Blatche, who turns 21 on Wednesday, has averaged 3.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in 85 games since the Wizards selected him in the second round of the 2005 draft out of South Kent Prep in Connecticut.

Heading into the offseason, Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said two of his major priorities were to retain Blatche and shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson, who signed a four-year, $15 million contract in July.

The 6-foot-11 Blatche made strides as a player last season, when injuries to forwards Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler created an opening for playing time. He averaged 6.9 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 50 percent in 13 games as a starter and had a string of double-digit rebounding games in February.

However, his time with the team also has included some disturbing off-the-court incidents. As a rookie, Blatche missed training camp and the preseason while recovering from gunshot wounds to his arm and chest after an apparent carjacking attempt. And on Aug. 2, Blatche was arrested and charged with solicitation.

A court date is scheduled for Aug. 31. If convicted, Blatche likely will avoid jail time and probation but will have to attend a counseling program, after which the charges would be dropped.

"Obviously I've spoken with Andray about what happened," Grunfeld said. "He feels bad about it and wishes it hadn't happened. He'll deal with it, he'll learn from it and we'll all move on."

With Blatche signed, the Wizards have 14 players under contract for the upcoming season, including forward Mike Hall and guard Donell Taylor, who have non-guaranteed deals.

Forward Darius Songaila is healthy after missing the first 45 games of last season with a back injury. The team added promising talents in shooting guard Nick Young and small forward Dominic McGuire through the June 28 draft and 2006 first-round pick Oleksiy Pecherov was signed. So Blatche once again will battle for playing time when training camp opens in October.

"Our plan was to get DeShawn and Andray re-signed and add some athleticism, which we think we've done with Nick and Dominic," Grunfeld said. "And with Pecherov coming over and the addition of a healthy Darius, we feel we have a deep, versatile team. Andray has improved, and we think he has a lot of upside -- he showed that when he had a chance to play last season -- but you have to earn everything in the NBA. Nothing is given."

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