3. ANDRAY BLATCHE (Washington Wizards, Power Forward, Seven-Year Pro)
Before there was “The Curious Case of Javale McGee,” there was the curious case of Andray Blatche.
The Washington Wizards have had a history of guys who are just enigmas: from ’Sheed, to Hibachi, to Blatche and McGee, currently. Yet Blatche, in particular, is a forgotten, classic case of talent wasted on an awful team. The most talented player to ever come out of the cold slums of Syracuse, New York, fell all the way to the 49th pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. His underwhelming career averages of 9.9 points, 5.5 boards and 1.5 dimes are largely a byproduct of a poor coaching and cultural setting within the Wizards franchise. There’s no way a kid that’s 6-11 with his deft touch, shooting range and passing ability can’t be successful in this league. Yes, in 2010 he got a three-year, $28 million extension based on potential, but it didn’t have a chance to come to fruition because the proper infrastructure wasn’t in place there to begin with.
The last two-month run of the 2009-10 season when Blatche went off for 22.1 points, 8.3 boards, and 3.6 assists can be the standard, not an aberration. Maybe those were empty stats that any cat could put up on a moribund squad. Except, how could you expect that kind of production to be sustained when he was coached by Eddie Jordan, Flip Saunders, Randy Wittman, and Ed Tapscott (Whoever the Hell that was)? None of those coaches are known as strict disciplinarians or genuine teachers of the game that’ll nurture and develop talent who may be head cases. There’s also the lack of true veterans present to show him tough love; rather he’s always been around clowns that act younger than him, like Agent Zero, Nick Young and McGee. A little guidance and accountability along the way would’ve helped Blatche understand what it takes to be a real pro.
His antics are becoming urban folklore. When Blatche isn’t shy to go on camera and show how he interacts socially with his teammates, people can easily deduce he doesn’t take anything seriously. ESPN’s Ryen Russillo has made Blatche a routine punch line. A fan once asked Russillo in a pubic chat room to provide an example to project whether Jimmer Fredette is “the next Mark Price or the next Eddie House.” He replied with: “I think he’s a mix with a little Andray Blatche.” On this same chat later, someone proposed this trade: “LeBron for Blatche. Who says no?” Russillo answered: “Washington, obviously.” Everyone is getting a piece of Blatche’s Wizards for representing pro ball’s version of the Washington Generals.
The Washington Post’s Michael Lee detailed the current strained relationship between Blatche and Wizards fans: “The Wizards have aggressively sought to move Blatche by the March 15 deadline and fans at the Verizon Center have soured on Blatche to the point that he is booed every time he enters the game, touches the ball or makes a mistake.”
These comical shots at him have evolved, or devolved, into somehow providing a sense of pride for Wizards fans.
SB Nation launched their Bullets Forever YouTube channel the other day, and the first episode delved into the chorus of boos towards Blatche.
“We also have to think about, like the Wizards, booing Blatche is really all we have right now. Blatche and Javale are like our claim to fame because we’re at least entertaining without being the shi%iest team in the NBA. That’s sort of what we’ve been hanging onto,” said SB Nation’s Andrew Sharp in their online installment debut.
Ernie Grunfeld must find a way to let him go. Blatche was once viewed as “a poor man’s K.G.” It would bode him well if he was sent to the Celtics’ strong leadership to learn from Garnett himself. Then perhaps he could replicate those gaudy late 2010 numbers and develop into “a middle-class man’s K.G.”