Washington Wizards' Andray Blatche sees latest injury as just another twist in his 'roller-coaster' season

Andray Blatche likely will make his return from an injured shoulder Saturday when the Wizards host the Raptors.
Andray Blatche likely will make his return from an injured shoulder Saturday when the Wizards host the Raptors. (Jonathan Newton/the Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 15, 2011; 1:21 AM

For a few days, the wackiness of Andray Blatche's season could be found in the bizarre pattern of twists and turns that he had carved into the left side of his head.

Blatche explained that the haircut represented his "roller-coaster" life, which had seen him go from breaking his foot last summer, to signing a huge extension before training camp, to struggling to regain his conditioning, to leading the team in scoring, to having an altercation at a Washington nightclub with teammate JaVale McGee, to hearing that the Washington Wizards were open to trading him.

He was slumping and his confidence was shaken, especially when he heard his own fans booing him at home games. But Blatche said he eventually found some calm when his mother, Angela Oliver, decided to leave her home in South Carolina to spend a few weeks with him. "It's been a tough ride, but my family is behind me," Blatche said. "She heard my confidence was down, so she came up to try to cheer me up and be there for me. She fed me, made me feel better.

"Even though a lot of people have given up on me, the most important people still have my back, still trying to fight for me, root for me," Blatche said. "The organization has my back and they are supporting me and letting me know, 'Don't worry about the trade rumors. We love you here. We need you.' "

The 6-foot-11 forward arrived with a fresh, closely cropped look before the Wizards played Sacramento on Tuesday, which felt like a return to normalcy. He shot the ball well and rebounded better against the Kings, but just as he started to think his situation was improving, Blatche felt a pop in his right shoulder while wrestling for a loose ball in the fourth quarter of the Wizards' 136-133 overtime win.

"I was in a groove, my shot started coming back and soon as it started coming back, I bruised my right shoulder. Like every time I [take a step forward], something goes wrong," Blatche said. "I thought it was something serious. I definitely thought it was something serious. That's why I laid there and told guys, 'Don't touch me. Give me a minute.' I knew I just wanted to take my time and make sure I didn't bruise it any worse."

But the injury to Blatche's shooting shoulder doesn't appear to be as serious as he had initially thought and he will likely be available on Saturday when the Wizards host the Toronto Raptors. "If he comes back, I don't know how totally effective he's going to be because he's not 100 percent," Saunders said. "But one thing about 'Dray, he's not afraid to play with pain. As long as we know he's not going to hurt it any more, he probably would try to extend and try to play if he can, just give us another big body guy and a lot of presence."

Blatche has missed five games this season and had trouble sitting on the sidelines Thursday as the Wizards dropped to 0-19 on the road this season with a loss in Minnesota. He tried all that he could to play, getting treatment and even taking jumpers an hour before the game. He decided he needed a little more rest.

"It was to the point that if it was too sore, if somebody would've bumped it, I would've had to come out," Blatche said. "With the soreness in it, I would've been trying to duck the pain and avoid as much contact as possible. I felt like, I would be cheating myself and my teammates if I went out there and played like that, because I wouldn't be able to give them any kind of effort."

He was disappointed that the Wizards were unable to close out the Timberwolves after taking a 94-90 lead with less than six minutes remaining. "I know if I was in the game, I would've definitely been able to help us get a win," Blatche said. "I hate missing games. It's the worst feeling. Especially when we're losing. I wouldn't mind if I was sitting out and we're winning. As long as we're taking care of business. But in games like that, where we have a chance to win and we lose, it's even worse."

Even if Blatche is unable to play against the Raptors, his presence will be felt in the arena as the team will give away his bobblehead doll to fans. Blatche had some input into his bobblehead design, asking that it have two earrings, something he is rarely seen without off the court. He smiled on Friday as he examined the doll. "It looks like me. You've got to glance at it, really look at it," Blatche said.

Blatche has been smiling and joking more lately, cracking a sly grin as he took shots before the Timberwolves game and one of his jumpers bounced off the rim and hit a ballboy in the head. "My bad," Blatche told the ballboy as they both shared a laugh. He says he is fortunate that his shoulder injury shouldn't keep him out too long.

"It's always a relief to know that no injury is as bad as you think. It's just a minor setback. I just got to continue to get better and keep fighting," Blatche said. "Life is a challenge. God didn't make nothing perfect or nothing easy. Anything you do, you've got to work through it and continue to fight. I just try to keep my head and pray about it."

Despite the distractions and adversity of this season, Blatche said he wouldn't let it affect his commitment to his team. "It's just heart, just heart," Blatche said. "I love doing my job. This is my dream job. I love playing. I love being here, and being with the Washington Wizards. Everything about it, even when I'm hurt, gives me the courage and the motivation to just push through it and play."

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