Wizards counting on Blatche, Oberto

Fourth-year forward Andray Blatche, shown last season, must play increased minutes for the Wizards with Antawn Jamion out.
Fourth-year forward Andray Blatche, shown last season, must play increased minutes for the Wizards with Antawn Jamion out. (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 30, 2009

It was a little past 11 p.m. on Wednesday when Andray Blatche sauntered into Verizon Center with Washington Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell. As they took the practice court to work on post moves and jump shots for an hour before retreating to the locker room, Blatche noticed the eerie silence.

Usually the building courses with activity even on non-game days. But after midnight, the only person around was a security guard.

"It was kind of scary, I ain't going to lie," Blatche said. "I brought my best friend. I had to go to the locker room by myself. I was a little scared."

Next time, Blatche said, he might bring his dog for protection, though he declined to say what breed or how big "King" is.

The 23-year-old is in his fourth season as a pro, but Blatche never before had such a late-night practice session. Of course, never before have the Wizards called upon the talented but inconsistent Blatche to fill such a large role.

With Antawn Jamison, the team's leading scorer the past two seasons, sidelined by a dislocated shoulder, Coach Flip Saunders has turned to the polar-opposite tandem of Fabricio Oberto and Blatche to man the power forward spot.

For one game, at least, the results have been terrific.

Blatche had 20 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks in 35 minutes off the bench. Oberto, a 34-year-old Argentine signed as a free agent this past offseason, got the start and tallied just five points, three rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes in the Wizards' season-opening 102-91 victory at Dallas this past Tuesday. But, Blatche noted, Oberto played excellent defense on Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki and generally did the little things that teammates love.

"One of the better power forward defenders in the league, as far as the physicality he plays with," Saunders said. "He's a great passer. He doesn't rely on his offensive scoring much, but he does the other things to make other guys better on the team."

With an Olympic gold medal and an NBA championship on his resume, perhaps it means a bit extra when Oberto says all he cares about is winning.

"That is the only thing that matters at the end of the day," Oberto said. "You gave everything and you helped the team to win. Playing one minute [or] playing 48, I'm happy. I'm happy to be in the NBA and enjoy every day."

While Oberto has been a consistent winner, Blatche is still searching for consistency since turning professional out of prep school. He might look splendid one game, then take another week or two to duplicate the results.

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