The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Andray Blatche on Wizards: “They tried to end me”

Andray Blatche took just two shots in the Brooklyn Nets’ 96-89 win over the rival New York Knicks on Monday at Barclays Center. But on an emotional night that should’ve been all about the first ever basketball borough battle, Blatche decided to take two even bigger shots at his former team, the Wizards – the same organization that is paying him more than $7 million of the nearly $8 million that he will earn this season.

As reporters gathered in the Nets locker room before the game, Blatche asked, “Anybody seen how the Wizards are doing?” Then, after the Nets won and the Wizards lost their 12th consecutive game to start the season, Blatche went on his Twitter account and wrote, “Feels good to be part of a winning organization.”

The comments drew the ire of already upset Wizards fans, but Blatche had much more that he needed to get off of his chest. Blatche decided to do a radio interview with Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier on 106.7 The Fan and lashed back at the Wizards for what he felt was a lack of support in his final years with the franchise.

“They’ve could’ve had my back,” Blatche said during an interview that lasted roughly 20 minutes and touched on several topics, including his poor conditioning, the incident when he failed to check in during a game against Charlotte, his relationship with Ernie Grunfeld and even him getting arrested for soliciting a prostitute in 2007.

The Wizards ended a seven-year relationship with Blatche last July, when they used the amnesty provision to waive him and give him the $23 million left on his contract. But Blatche said that the ties were severed well before then and alleged that the organization used him as a scapegoat when last season went south.

In his final season in Washington, Blatche had ballooned to more than 280 pounds and was booed simply for existing at home games at Verizon Center. He felt the organization didn’t do enough to shield him.

“They could’ve explained exactly what was going on. They’ve could’ve had my back. They could’ve done anything. I don’t care what they could’ve done. It could’ve been small, than to say, you know what, ‘This is our escape route. We’re going to leave him out for himself. He’s going to have to fend for himself now,’ ” Blatche said. “No, that’s not what you do when it’s your family. And supposedly say this is a brotherhood. That’s not what you do. I don’t care, whatever my brother, my uncle, my sister, whatever anybody does, I’m going to have their back 100 percent. And that’s what you do with family. That’s all I’m saying.

“If we’re family, then act like it,” he said.

Blatche accepted some culpability for his shortcomings last season, when he regressed in nearly every statistical category. He blamed his poor conditioning on the lockout and failing to train because he thought that the NBA was going to lose a season after conversations with teammates and players’ union leaders Maurice Evans and Roger Mason.

“I was out of shape. I 100 percent admit that. And that’s 100 percent on me. But my thing is, I’m not necessarily blaming it all on injuries because it’s other things I could’ve possibly done…I could’ve did a lot more workouts. Do more stuff in the pool to take stress off my legs. I could’ve done a lot more of that,” Blatche continued. “I’m talking more of the booing and the ignorance of certain fans of certain situations with the media that the organization didn’t have my back with. That’s what I’m talking about.”

Blatche described his relationship with Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld as “alright,” but added, “I don’t like how he didn’t have my back. He didn’t have my back.”

That characterization would be amusing to many within the Wizards organization, since Grunfeld covered for Blatche on several occasions and was the main reason he received a lucrative extension. Some of Blatche’s former teammates jokingly referred to him as “Andray Grunfeld,” according to league sources, because he was perceived as a favorite.

“I’m not going to get into that,” Coach Randy Wittman said when asked about Blatche after Tuesday’s practice. We did everything we could to help him, as we will with every player that ever comes here.”

When reminded that Grunfeld gave him a $28 million extension in 2010, Blatche responded, “It’s easy to be in somebody’s corner when things is good. That’s the easiest thing in the world, that’s for anybody. I’m talking about when things are bad, when things are going wrong. That’s when you can tell if somebody is on your side or not – when things are going bad. That contract was great because things were going good.”

“I needed help,” Blatche said. “I asked them, ‘Why is nobody having my back? Everybody said, ‘You have to play through it and things will turn around.’ ”

Blatche said he never questioned owner Ted Leonsis’s commitment to building a winner in Washington. “He’s a first-class guy. I have nothing against him.”

Blatche is averaging 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds as a reserve for the Nets, who are tied with the Knicks for first place in the Atlantic Division. He signed with the team on a make-good deal in late September and made the team after a solid performance in the preseason.

“To be honest with you, me being amnestied from that team, that was one of the biggest things to help me,” he said. “Now I’m in a whole different organization. A different part of my life, that I’m going to be able to succeed in.”

But he is still disappointed with how his tenure ended in Washington. He admitted, “It’s over for me in D.C. I know that.”

The interview was wide-ranging but took a bizarre turn near the end, when Blatche was asked to explain his infamous soliciting incident five years ago, when he was arrested for approaching an undercover cop. Blatche explained, “That was a joke gone bad.”

“Nobody had money on them. Nobody had no money in the car, period,” he said. “I was young, immature and playing around. She was not dressed as a prostitute, first of all. She was in front of the club while we was talking trash playing around. For me talking to her automatically made it soliciting.”

He also argued that his time in Washington was largely misrepresented and he was cast as a “knucklehead.” He denied that he refused to enter a game against the Bobcats in March 2010, claiming that it was a “misunderstanding” that the Wizards declined to acknowledge publicly and made him look worse.

“I’m quite sure, they can ask every last one of my teammates here and I guarantee you what they say about me is completely different than what y’all think of me in D.C.,” he said. “For them to say, ‘Oh, he’s a bad teammate. He’s a cancer in the locker room.’ He’s this and that. All that was a bunch of lies! A bunch of lies. That’s what really made me mad. That showed me, they tried to end me.”