By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 12, 2010; D01
The Washington Wizards suspended reserve power forward Andray Blatche on Monday for one game for conduct detrimental to the team. Blatche was sent home after getting belligerent with the coaching staff, according to sources, which left Coach Flip Saunders with just eight players available for what turned out to be a shortened practice that was less than an hour.
The Wizards already were without point guard Gilbert Arenas, who was suspended indefinitely by the NBA last week because of his conduct after it was revealed that he had a locker room incident involving guns last month with teammate Javaris Crittenton. Crittenton, who has been out with a left ankle injury, has now been granted an excused leave of absence while the legal process plays out, a team spokesman said.
The team's pool of talent grew even shallower when Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson all arrived at Verizon Center on Monday wearing suits and sport coats. They did not practice and later spoke with law enforcement authorities about Arenas's gun possession case and the details surrounding the dispute between Arenas and Crittenton that led to guns being displayed on Dec. 21.
With the Wizards set to host Detroit on Tuesday -- their fourth game since NBA Commissioner David Stern suspended Arenas -- and the team playing inspired basketball in their past two games against Orlando and New Orleans, Saunders was asked after practice if things were moving closer to being more normal. Saunders chortled and made it clear that there is no such thing as normal when it comes to the Wizards these days.
"Considering that we had three guys meeting with lawyers and the district attorney this morning, during practice -- no," Saunders said. "We have people still meeting with people. That's something right now that we have to live with and fight through."
The task will get even more challenging for Saunders and the Wizards, who could be without starting shooting guard Mike Miller (sore right calf) for an extended period and will definitely play without their primary backup for Haywood and Antawn Jamison against Saunders's former team, the Pistons, who are 2-0 against the Wizards this season.
Miller had an MRI exam Monday afternoon on the injured calf that forced him to miss 21 games. He played the past two games but complained about being immobile in an ineffective 14 minutes against New Orleans. "Today, he was feeling a lot better," Saunders said. "I just think we're going to have to wait to see where he's at on a day-to-day basis."
Saunders would not get specific about what led to Blatche's suspension, saying only that it was the result of his behavior during and after the Wizards' 115-110 loss to the Hornets on Sunday. Blatche had zero points, three rebounds and three turnovers in almost 17 minutes. After the game, Blatche dressed, went to Randy Foye's locker and sprayed himself down with Foye's cologne. Head athletic trainer Eric Waters approached Blatche and asked him to head to the training room. Blatche angrily responded, "Do I look like I care about my knee?" He then exited the locker room.
A person familiar with the situation said that Saunders informed the players after the team reached 30 games that he had high expectations for them and wasn't going to tolerate the slightest lack of professionalism.
Blatche was among the four players fined $10,000 on Friday for participating in a prearranged gimmick in a pregame huddle in Philadelphia, where Arenas mimicked shooting his teammates with his fingers before a win against the 76ers. Blatche later apologized for the incident, but after being moved out of the starting lineup for the past two games, Blatche has scored a combined four points with 11 rebounds in 32 minutes.
Attempts to reach Blatche by telephone were unsuccessful. A message left with his agent, Eric Fleisher, was not returned.
In his fifth season, Blatche is averaging 8.8 points and 5.2 rebounds, but his playing time and production have dropped considerably since Jamison returned from a right shoulder injury in the middle of November. In the first nine games, he averaged 14.1 points and seven rebounds, scored a career-high 30 points against New Jersey on Oct. 31 and reached at least 20 points on two other occasions. Since then, Blatche has averaged just 6.9 points and 4.6 rebounds.
"It's too much already," Jamison said, when asked about the constant distractions with the Wizards, "but this is our job. This is what we get paid to do. The one thing we want to do is win basketball games and have playoff games here and really contend. But it's just been so many distractions that we really haven't been able to discuss those things."
He admitted that the situation surrounding Arenas and Crittenton won't go away for some time. "I think we all know that. The legal process has to go through what they have to go through. After that, the NBA's going to get on it. Unfortunately, this might be something that can drag on throughout the year," Jamison said. "You pretty much look at it as two guys really made poor judgment. They let something heated dictate a poor judgment, and people are looking at them in a different light. People are seeing them as a different person. You just wish it would have never happened."