On Tuesday, July 17, the Washington Wizards used their one-time amnesty provision to erase a mistake. By letting go of Andray
Baltche Blatche, the Wizards essentially paid him 23 million dollars to just go away.
Andray Blatche was the last trace of the losing culture that had plagued the Wizards for several years. The list of problems was long, but one-by-one, Ernie Grunfeld tried to amend those problems. Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis, Nick Young, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche are now all gone. The Wizards have acquired what appears to be better talent, or at least less-troubled talent, for the upcoming season. Now that the incredible weight of Andray Blatche’s situation has been lifted off of the team, the Wizards seem poised to dig their way out of the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
I, like many of the other Wizards’ faithful fans, am ready to look ahead, but not without looking back at the good, the bad and those times that can only be described as “the Andray.”
I remember when there was still hope for Andray. I remember the way he ended the 2009-2010 season and thinking that he was going to be an all-star. From the time he became an official starter on February 17, 2010 until the end of the season, a span of 31 games, Blatche scored 18 or more points in all but five games. Over that same stretch, he had 13 double-doubles. Then came the broken foot that off-season. In the 2010-2011 season, Blatche didn’t quite make the jump we all expected him to. The numbers weren’t bad, but given the kind of players the Wizards had that year, I really expected Blatche to emerge as the best player.
Fast-forward to this past season. My expectations were significantly lower for Blatche, but I still expected him to do something. In 26 games, Blatche had four double-doubles and he only had more than ten rebounds once. He averaged 8.5 points per game while shooting 38% from the field. Believe it or not, the fans at the Verizon Center took note of Blatche’s performance and let him know how they felt. The boos from fans weren’t just a reaction to the way Blatche had played in that small portion of the 2012 season. It was a build-up of frustration from Blatche’s continued antics. Blatche finished off the 2012 season in street clothes. He missed a month with a debilitating strained calf and gave us one of the more comical box scores we’ve seen when he was listed as “NWT-conditioning.”
Anyone who followed the situation knew that this would likely be the last memory of Blatche as a Wizard. Blatche could have come back next year and handed out free puppies to season ticket holders, but that still wouldn’t have been enough. There was no way that Blatche could have remained with this team.
Andray Blatche is a fascinating case study for basketball historians. How does one person fall so far out of favor with fans? Is Andray Blatche perhaps the most misunderstood figure in sports? JaVale McGee would certainly argue against that one, but is it really surprising that these guys ended up like this? Trying to mature in a locker room can’t be easy when Gilbert Arenas is pooping in your shoes and wielding handguns.
By all accounts, Andray Blatche is a decent guy. He may just be in desperate need of a change of scenery. Somebody will take a risk with Blatche and it may just pay off. He’ll go somewhere where they can spell his name and maybe he can settle down with a nice girl who isn’t an undercover cop on a prostitution sting. Maybe that will do the trick.
When Andray finds a new home, Wizards fans won’t be left empty-handed. We’ll always have those “Andray” moments.
We’ll always remember his uncanny ability to do some really creative things around the basket.
We’ll always remember him as the Wizard with the best dance moves. (Sorry John Wall)
We’ll certainly remember how he went “hard in the paint” at Lapdance Tuesday.
We’ll remember how his coloring book encouraged kids to “eat lean protein every day” while he sat by his locker eating nachos before a game.
And how can we forget the superior athleticism?
Blatche was all the entertainment Wizards fans could handle these last few years, but somewhere along the line, we got tired of being the butt of the joke. We are ready to play some meaningful basketball in D.C. Blatche may be one of those people who just needs a push in the right direction to get back on his feet, but the only push the Wizards could have given him was a push out the door.
So, farewell Andray, it’s been “real”.