Andray Blatche was not made available on Tuesday, a day after he expressed his frustrations about how he was used in the Wizards’ opening night loss to the New Jersey Nets. He sneaked through the back exit after practice, and avoided crossing paths with reporters, but didn’t necessarily go quietly.
Coach Flip Saunders glossed over what Blatche had to say after practice, saying he was relieved to finally hear the 6-foot-11 big man finally declare that he was tired of being a “pick-and-pop” player.
“His reputation has been for six years that he won’t go in the post,” said Saunders, who once suspended Blatche two seasons ago for getting belligerent when the coaching staff demanded him to go inside instead of settling on jumpers.
“Him saying that he wants to go in the post, to me that’s, I like hearing him say that. We try to get him in the post,” Saunders said. “The other thing you have to understand is that other teams always aren’t going to let you do what you want to do. And he is a good post-up player.” Blatche scored 11 points on just 5 of 13 shooting and had eight rebounds in the Wizards’ 90-84 loss. His counterpart, Kris Humphries, nearly doubled that production with 21 points and 16 rebounds.
Before the game, Blatche grabbed the microphone and addressed by proclaiming, “This is your captain.” Blatche assumed captain duties before the game, shaking hands with Nets point guard Deron Williams and getting instructions from the referees.
But Saunders said that captains have not been assigned for the season and planned to rotate different players throughout the season. “I haven’t decided who’s going to be our captains. We’ve had two weeks training camp, and it was a situation last night, he’s been here the longest, longer than anybody else, and so we’ll rotate who it’s going to be. Until we decide it’s somebody who has evolved as sort of being our captain.
“Being a captain is not something that’s given to you,” Saunders continued. “It’s something that basically evolves. I know there’s been a lot of guys that have never had a C on their shirt, but have been a leader on the floor more than anybody else. That’ll evolve over time.”
Blatche has tried to assume more of a leadership role this offseason, organizing a team workout after Saunders gave him John C. Maxwell’s “The 17 Essential Qualities Of A Team Player: Becoming The Kind Of Person Every Team Wants.” Blatche admitted to only reading half of the book and didn’t remember its name.
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said on media day that more was expected of Blatche, who was rewarded a three-year, $28 million extension in September 2010. The Wizards signed him to the deal to avoid letting him become an unrestricted free agent this summer, when his previous deal was expected to expire.
“I talked to Andray and he understands that the fan base, media are all looking to take cues on can his focus and dedication match his skills,” Leonsis said. “He’s a young man, and he understands that these are defining moments for him.”
Saunders also said that he didn’t expect to hear comments about play calling after the first game of the season — in which the Wizards squandered a 21-point lead. “It’s disappointing, but we were all disappointed. When you’re up 20 and you’re playing as well as he had, you should continue to play the same way, and we didn’t. We’re still trying to find out pieces, and I told them, as a coach that’s the toughest thing…As I’ve said to the players, I want to hear from the players, instead of saying either I’ve got to get this shot or whatever, I’ve really got to get that block out, really contain my guy. It’s a team score, not individual-type score.”
He added that the Wizards can easily add more plays inside for Blatche. “We’ll try to continue to get him the ball down there more and be efficient like that,” Saunders said. “He also has to understand, just because you get it at 17 feet, you don’t have to shoot it either. I’m not twisting his arm to do that. Just make basketball plays and he’ll be able to do that.”