Mike Wise: For the Wizards' Andray Blatche, it's a 'new Dre'

By Mike Wise
Saturday, October 31, 2009

Angela Oliver opened her desk drawer in Greenville, S.C., on Thursday morning, saw the page peeking out, and thought, Damn, there it is. By coincidence, she had found a four-year-old article folded between the pages of a notebook.

"Blatche Shot," the local paper read.

"That's the night I could've lost my baby," said Oliver, the woman who raised and nurtured Andray Blatche. "After everything that's happened since, you know it just seems so long ago now.

"It just feels good that I can actually look at it today and, say, 'That was then.' "

The Wizards' home opener is Saturday, the hopeful dawning of a new era at Verizon Center, featuring Coach Flip Saunders, the return of a reconstructed Gilbert Arenas and a vibe that already feels invigorating after all the hurt and generally horrible play from last season's 19-63.

Andray Blatche also believes it features "the new Dre."

He says the kid who was forever the lanky, semi-interested-in-basketball project is gone, replaced by a determined 6-foot-11 center.

He says he is no longer the next big youngster after Kwame Brown certain to never get it and break the franchise's heart. The clubbing, the drinking -- the young knucklehead he used to be?

"Part of the old Dre," Blatche said. "That was a younger me. I'm more mature. More focused."

This Andray Blatche says DeShawn Stevenson taught him how to eat right and genuinely prepare himself for each game, to the point that Blatche now subsides mostly on lean meats, fish and fruits and vegetables.

Saunders and assistant coach Sam Cassell, he said, helped turn him into a workout fiend, a veteran who will spend all hours to better himself, a guy who could comfortably come off the bench in Dallas on Tuesday and drop in 20 points in 35 minutes of a huge road win in the opener.

"My shot is more consistent and my body is in better shape," Blatche said. "Really, I'm just more dedicated to the game."

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