|Andray Blatche is actually showing he belongs. (Getty Images)|
Andray Blatche is a curious case.
For years, Blatche has been a joke among NBA diehards and a cautionary tale for NBA GMs and owners with loose checkbooks. You can be swayed by the talent and blinded to the individual. He wasn’t the first player to be given a lot of money without proving his worth, only to show it was a wasted investment.
I have made crack after crack about Blatche and his game. You joke about his pick-and-roll defense, his shot selection, and his off-the-court antics because it’s been fish in a barrel. Much like designing your offensive attack against his Washington Wizards teams, he’s been an easy target.
But to say Blatche is simply a product of a spoiled and entitled pro athlete that so many people regale against around the water cooler, on message boards, and among friends would be jumping the gun and forgetting there is another side to how a player matures and grows in the NBA. Yes, it’s ultimately on the individual to take pride in their jobs and come through on a good faith and contractual understanding that they should produce a certain level of play to justify financial security. However, the role of an organization and how the environment they create around their employees can be just as important -- both good and bad.
Blatche was one of the poster children for the dysfunctional Wizards teams over the last half decade. It was a team that saw its young players -- potential building blocks to ensure a bright future -- flounder in our nation’s capital. It was an organization that had players defecate in teammates’ shoes, cut up suits, and brandish firearms in the locker room.
There’s no denying Blatche was a big part of the problem. He consistently showed a lackadaisical effort, even after securing a five-year, $35 million contract in the summer of 2010. There wasn’t anything leading you to believe he truly cared about playing up to his potential or sacrificing the necessary amount for his teammates.
But what if it wasn’t all his fault? What if the organization was just bad at teaching young players how to succeed?
During a recent radio interview, Blatche explained his current disdain for his past few years with the Wizards and tried to tell his side of things. Via The Washington Post:
“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.
“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."
Since being amnestied from the Wizards, Blatche has joined the Brooklyn Nets and seemingly resurrected his once-promising career. Albeit in limited minutes (17.9 per game), he’s putting up career per-36 minutes numbers across the board and showing his best measurements in many advanced statistical categories.
There was definitely a point when Blatche lost his way with the Wizards. You can blame immaturity or bad influences from teammates like Gilbert Arenas. You can blame pro athlete entitlement or a lack of pride/character. But in all of the blaming of Blatche for his disappointing career, the Wizards deserve some culpability for this failed experiment.
You have to take Blatche’s comments with a grain of salt, but I would imagine there is plenty of truth to his feelings of nobody within the organization having his back and supporting him through tough times. It’s easy to look at the horizon of a new collective bargaining agreement and guess you’ll be afforded an amnesty option to shed a bad contract of a player you don’t want anymore.
But isn’t that just as lazy as Blatche’s decision-making during pick-and-roll defense? Blatche's is a story that reminds us just how important mentors, coaching staffs and the development of a young player are in the NBA. It’s why the rookie symposiums and developmental people within an organization mean nearly as much as the character of a player you acquire to your team. It’s human nature to fall into pits and have bad stretches of decision-making in your personal life and professional life. It’s teaching someone how to correct that which seems so pertinent, especially in an industry like the NBA.
Look at their departed young core that was supposed to lift the Wizards back to new heights. JaVale McGee has become a highly effective player in Denver, Nick Young’s sense of being a gunner has been embraced and calculated in Philadelphia, and Blatche is figuring out how to act like a professional basketball player in Brooklyn.
“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.”
It’s not to say the Wizards are incapable of developing young talent. They’re getting a chance with guys like John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Jan Vesely, and Chris Singleton to show they can put the right developmental staff and veterans around these young building blocks.
But when they had a chance a few years ago, they failed and, in turn, failed these young adults who were asked to handle responsibility on one of the toughest and brightest stages.
Many of us will keep waiting for the other shoe to drop with Blatche because he hasn’t earned back that trust that once guaranteed him millions of dollars over half a decade. However, it’s nice to see the start of a once immature player learning how to grow up and fulfill the expectations we bestow upon them.