At last Thursday's trade deadline, the Washington Wizards signaled a new direction for the franchise when they traded goofballs JaVale McGee and Nick Young. They were getting serious about winning, forgoing one ineffective youth movement for a more adult rebuilding plan.
Yet, even with McGee and Young gone, the Wizards still have Andray Blatche, a talented player whose maturity level made him the NBA's first one-game captain earlier this season. The franchise still needs to figure out if it can go forward with Blatche's involvement. However, instead of playing him, or trying to see if he can work with their new, Nene-including lineup, they're going to sit him so he can get in shape. From Michael Lee of The Washington Post:
After watching Andray Blatche labor through the past nine games and struggle to contribute, Wizards Coach Randy Wittman announced on Tuesday that he would shut down the 6-foot-11 forward until he is in better condition. Blatche missed more than a month with a strained left calf but has averaged just 5.1 points on 37.7 percent shooting and 3.3 rebounds in about 16 minutes since he returned.
He played five ineffective minutes on Sunday in Memphis, where he went scoreless with one rebound, a foul and a turnover. He missed his only shot attempt, then passed on taking an open jumper to throw a pass directly to Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo. Wittman benched Blatche for the rest of the game.
"We thought we could maybe try to play him into shape once he got back," Wittman said. "After looking at it, it's unfair for me to put him in that position. And I think what we're going to do, we're going to probably not play him for a while, get him on a program here, where he can really go after it from a conditioning standpoint to get himself back into shape. It's not fair for me to do that to the kid."
With Blatche coming off injury, it's not as if this decision was entirely motivated by the team's new direction. His play suggests that he needs time to heal, and sitting out will give him that opportunity.
Still, the concept of taking time to get in shape means relatively little when there are only five weeks left in the season. It's also not as if the Wizards are sitting him to tank — they've already locked up a pretty good position in the lottery and would do better to see how all their players work together in this new lineup.
Interim coach Randy Wittmann claims to have no idea how long Blatche will sit out, which means this will probably be a manner of weeks and not games. Given the time left in the season, it's easy to view this break as a chance for the Wizards to push Blatche into the background with little attention paid to the move. After the season, they can pursue trades as part of the typical summer news cycle. During the season, when no one can avoid seeing who plays on any particular night, it's a little harder to hide him.