Andray Blatche, 11 months before the lockout ended (Getty Images)
When the Washington Wizards drafted Andray Blatche in 2005, there were whispers amongst Wiz fans that this could be the guy. That Andray could be the one to put this team over the top, this potent Washington squad coming off of its first second round appearance in 23 years. Three years of steady growth and sometimes potent play had some on Wizards message boards wondering if they had a Kevin Garnett-type on their hands, a player that only didn't seem to find much playing time due to his young age and status on a loaded Wizards squad. It was Blatche's potential for bust-out play in his late 20s that made it easier for Ernie Grunfeld to throw $166 million at Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison in the summer of 2008, even as they approached their declining years.
We know what happened next. With greater minutes, and a newfound legal ability to enter clubs following games featuring those increased minutes, Blatche put together some astoundingly bad basketball while the other Wizards around him fell apart. Grunfeld (who cluelessly signed Blatche to a five-year, $28 million deal in 2010) kept trying to add veterans and keep his team relevant, but he was failing as badly as Blatche. Blatche, setting new standards for his poor conditioning, bottomed out during the disastrous lockout season of 2011-12. By the time the Wizards decided to dump Blatche's salary with the amnesty clause last summer, instead of Rashard Lewis' deal that costs three times as much in 2012-13, no Wizards fan balked as they said "bye" to "Baltche."
Blatche, years after he should have, shaped up on his own time for once and signed with Brooklyn. He's played well with the Nets, at times, and is now part of a team that rests atop the Atlantic division after a stirring win over their intra-city rival New York Knicks. And, in spite of all this, all Andray Blatche can think about is the Washington Wizards. Because he's that sort of guy.
Before the contest, in a way that reporters would overhear, Blatche was heard asking nobody in particular if they'd "seen how the Wizards are doing," referring to the team's 0-11 start. With another Wizard loss in the books, dropping them to 0-12 and wrapping up just before Blatche's Nets took down New York, Andray decided to troll so hard. From his Twitter account:
(What's even worse is the fawning @ replies you can find telling Andray that he's on the right path. Geez, these followers will do anything to ingratiate themselves with athletes. He's not going to ask you to his next birthday party, @Netsdude.)
If you're having a hard time reading that last tweet, a second or third trip through that mess reveals that Blatche feels bad for being out of shape while playing in Washington (though, in a later interview, he'd later blame that poor shape from 2008 through 2012 on a lockout that started in July of 2011), while chiding the team for not helping him more to get into shape. As if pages' worth of collectively bargained morals clauses, a month-long training camp, an 82-game season and dozens of practices, shootarounds, and workout appointments were not enough.
As the night moved on and Monday turned into Tuesday morning, Blatche continued to defend his salvos, finding salvation continually in pointing out that he blames himself for being out of shape, as if that cured all. Then, with the hole already dug pretty deeply, Andray took to the airwaves.
Appearing on Washington-area's 106.7 The Fan with Holden and Danny on Tuesday morning, Blatche continued to blame the Wizards for "not having [his] back" when the fans booed or the media got on him for his shoddy play, but declined to specifically point out what the Wizards could have done to support him for fans and media's reaction to his terrible contributions.
He also declined to take a shot at Grunfeld, which is a pretty good thing because Grunfeld's team is still paying him the remainder of his contract despite waiving him over the summer. Hilariously, he also defended his solicitation of a prostitute in the summer of 2007 by pointing out that the undercover officer posing as a prostitute "wasn't dressed like a prostitute" and that he and his friends didn't have any money on them at the time. Similar denials of culpability were issued for instances including the time he refused to report back into a game, or the times he sparred with fans at Washington's Verizon Center.
In all, as was the case on Twitter, he only copped to being out of shape. Thankfully, unlike his time on Twitter, Blatche passed on blaming the Wizards for not helping him further with his weight issues.
It's a tricky line. As fans and media members we like it when athletes speak freely, and candidly discuss what is happening with their personal and professional lives. But we also demand athletes can it, at certain times, as we try to impose our own set of morals on an athlete.
Are we wrong, though, in this case? The Wizards are completely to blame for structuring their future around a series of terrible contracts and questionable players, but that's also completely irrespective of the blame that should be put on Blatche for never evolving in the slightest as a player or professional beyond what came completely naturally to him. Just because the two targets once worked together doesn't mean we can't completely dismiss both in full. This isn't an either/or question.
The difference, of course, is that Ernie Grunfeld isn't hopping on Twitter to take on Andray Blatche, or gloat in front of reporters about the old flame. He can't, of course, because the team he's run since 2003 is absolutely terrible and still winless; but you probably wouldn't see Ernie pulling that sort of stunt had the Wiz started 3-1 this season while Blatche missed 25 his first 30 shots of the year up in Brooklyn.
Behind all of it is the guilt, of course. Blatche knows he could have done better, and because he's years away from processing things, he vents in the only way he knows how. As an unfunny smart-aleck to reporters, completely uncaring of the mess he's left behind for Wizards fans to live through, and in borderline inscrutable rants on Twitter.
Why we expected anything more from Andray Blatche, at this point, is beyond me.
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- Ernie Grunfeld