The Rise and Fall of Andray Blatche

After being selected 49th overall in the 2005 NBA Draft straight out of high school, Andray Blatche was on his way to becoming the Washington Wizards’ great enigma.

It wasn’t long before Blatche made headline news either. Nearly three months after being selected by the Wizards, Blatche was shot by a man that was attempting to steal his vehicle. Needless to say, Andray Blatche’s career as a professional basketball player was already off to an awful start.

Blatche’s beginning years in Washington were spent developing and watching former All-Star Antawan Jamison from the bench. With injuries plaguing the Wizards, Blatche received occasional playing time in which he was able to showcase his abilities. Coming out of high school, Blatche was advertised as a 6-foot-11 power forward who had the skills to stretch the floor and even penetrate the basket. Then in 2007, Blatche was caught trying to solicit a prostitute who was later revealed to be a uncover cop. But with youth comes irresponsibility. Management and the fan base were willing to give Blatche yet another chance.

As injuries and off the court disputes became too much to bare for the team, change became inevitable. Former All-Stars Caron Butler and Antawan Jamison were traded in order to give the the team a fresh start. With virtually no one on the roster in store for the long haul, Blatche savored the opportunity to become the team’s first option. With Blatche putting up career numbers — like 36 points against the New Jersey Nets — Ernie Grunfeld and the rest of the Wizards front office extended Blatche’s contract for a total of five years, costing them over 35 million dollars. At the time, this seemed like a decent move since Blatche was on the rise and was touted as being part of the future core for the Wizards. During that forgettable 2010 NBA season Blatche averaged a career high in both points and rebounds, by scoring nearly 17 points and grabbing 8 rebounds per game. Ted Leonsis even compared Blatche’s statistics to former NBA All-Star Carlos Boozer.  An extension to an up-and-coming player such as Blatche came with high praise from the Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, as he went on to say,

We wanted him to become part of a young core that is focused on teamwork and winning. A fresh beginning … He is still developing. He believes in his teammates. He is a vocal leader and he will continue to put up impressive numbers as the season progresses. I have spent quality one on one time with this young man and I like him. I believe in him. I know he has great upside and that he believes in his teammates. And himself.

 

After coming off a career best season, fans as well as those running the Washington Wizards organization expected Blatche to become a top tier player. His versatility and skill were overshadowed by his antics and lack of IQ on the court and off the court. After injuring his foot, Blatche appeared to be overweight and out of playing condition. During the start of the 2012 lockout shortened season, Blatche was visibly out of shape, which didn’t help Blatche’s performance what so ever. This eventually led to a overwhelming amount of ‘boos’ from the Wizards fans attending the games. Blatche made his emotional discomfort public when he stated that the ‘boos’ got inside his head.

I’m letting the crowd get to my head, making me second guess, not letting me be the player that I am. It’s very frustrating.

 

On March 20, during the course of last season, Blatche was sent home due to his poor conditioning, and his poor play. It was reported that Blatche had “ballooned” over 280 pounds. Head coach Randy Wittman who was than coaching on an ‘interim’ label, called Blatche’s chances of playing again during the season “slim”. After Blatche was sent home, rumors sparked that he has been a part of several trade scenarios, which in hindsight never came about. With team president, Ernie Grunfeld, unable to deal Blatche, chances that he would be waived as a result of the leagues new amnesty provision grew. And with the emergence of Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker, Blatche became as expendable as he had ever been.

As the NBA off-season began to roll around, several players such as former Philadelphia Sixer Elton Brand and former Houston Rocket Luis Scola, were waived by the use of the new amnesty provision. Several inside sources let it be known that the Wizards were ‘seriously considering’ using their amnesty clause on Andray Blatche in order to free up some flexibility and playing time for their emerging big men. On the deadline for the amnesty clause, Blatche was waived, and was set to be paid the remaining 23 million dollars left on his contract.

Was it time for Blatche to go? It most certainly was. His situation in D.C. had become dire, and his off the court antics and partying had become more widespread than his play on the court. With the organization looking to move in a different direction by trading players from the “Gilbert Arenas era” including Nick Young and JaVale McGee, the only logical next step was to let go of Blatche. We all know how enamored Ernie Grunfeld had become with Blatche’s talents. And let’s face it, Blatche is just as talented as many of the top forwards in todays NBA. New owner Ted Leonsis gave Ernie Grunfeld a chance by extending his contract, it was up to him to fix his previous mistakes. Grunfeld isn’t well known for great strategical moves, but during Ted Leonsis’ tenure as the Wizards owner, he’s been doing a decent job improving the roster. After trading for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, drafting Bradley Beal with the third pick, his next step was to amnesty Andray Blatche this off-season.

Blatche has had his up and downs during his seven years as a Wizard, and I’m frankly glad that his time in D.C is done. As I noted before, your self proclaimed “captain”, has all the talent in the world to succeed. The only thing holding Blatche down from a great long career as a basketball player, is Blatche himself. I’ve heard that “Dray” is a very nice person off the court, and I certainly hope he can get it together. I’m also glad the the Wizards front office has acknowledged the fact that extending Blatche’s contract was indeed a mistake, in which they plan to move on from.

Have we seen the last of “Seven Day Dray” in the NBA? Maybe.  But we’ve certainly seen the last of Blatche as a Washington Wizard.

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