Washington Wizards rookie Andray Blatche was listed in good condition last night at Inova Fairfax Hospital, one day after being shot in the chest near his home in Alexandria. Police said they are investigating the attack as an attempted carjacking.
"He's doing much better today," said Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld, who selected the 19-year-old forward in the second round of the NBA draft in June. "We're encouraged by his progress and we're all just thankful that it wasn't worse." He was sitting up in bed and talking with family members and other visitors, according to the team.
According to Alexandria City police, Blatche and two friends were traveling home at 6:13 a.m. Sunday when two masked men in a van approached their car.
One of the suspects had a gun and ordered Blatche out of the sedan, police said, but the gunman shot him in the upper body before he could exit. After the shooting, Blatche's friends drove the car to Duke Street, a major Alexandria boulevard, where they called 911.
Blatche was then flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he received treatment but did not undergo surgery.
No arrests have been made, but Alexandria City police are investigating. On Sunday night, Blatche's mother, Angela Oliver, told the Syracuse Post-Standard that the bullet missed her son's heart by an inch.
"He's doing okay," she said. "He's breathing on his own. The bullet didn't hit any vital organs. He's been sedated, but he's been talking to me when he's come out of it."
Oliver and other family members declined to comment yesterday, but she released a statement through the Wizards: "We appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers regarding Andray. We are very encouraged with the progress that Andray has made. We are fortunate that the injury is not worse and we are grateful for the support of the hospital staff. Our entire family is focused on helping Andray recover. We would appreciate everyone respecting our privacy during this time."
The shooting sent shockwaves through a Wizards organization that is gearing up for the opening of training camp on Oct. 4 at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
The 6-foot-11 Blatche, the team's lone draft pick, is one of several additions to a team that finished 45-37 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs last season. The Wizards open the regular season Nov. 2 at Toronto.
Blatche is originally from Syracuse and starred at South Kent Prep in Connecticut last season, averaging 27.5 points, 16 rebounds and 6 blocks per game, and was one of 10 finalists for the Naismith Award, given to the nation's top high school player.
Blatche recently signed a two-year contract and has been in Washington working out with several veterans, including all-stars Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison and free agent signee Antonio Daniels.
Blatche, who averaged 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game for the Wizards' summer league team, has impressed teammates and team personnel with his skill, poise and willingness to learn on the fly.
"I'm just trying to figure out how in the world this guy wasn't taken in the first round," Jamison said after matching up against Blatche in a pickup game last week. "He doesn't play like a guy who is right out of high school. It's too early to tell and you don't want to put a lot of pressure on a young guy but I think he has a chance to be a very good player."
According to the team, the hospital has not set a date for Blatche's release.
"Right now we're just focused on making sure he comes out of this okay," Grunfeld said. "The good news is that it looks like he's going to recover from this. We'll worry about the basketball stuff later on."
Blatche wouldn't be the first NBA player to overcome a brush with death. In 2000, prior to his third season with the Celtics, all-star Paul Pierce was stabbed at a Boston nightclub. Pierce suffered a collapsed lung but eventually recovered and was able to play at the start of the 2000 season.
"We feel bad for Andray but the positive thing is that he is healthy and that his career isn't over before it took off," Jamison said yesterday. "It's sad that something like this happened to him during his rookie season, but he will be all right. We will continue to pray for him, hope for a speedy recovery and hold down the fort until he gets back."
Staff writer Tom Jackman contributed to this report.
Coach Eddie Jordan, right, and the Wizards were impressed by 6-foot-11 rookie Andray Blatche, who averaged 9.5 points in the summer league.