Andray Blatche (Ned Dishman/ Getty)Since the advent of the NBA's amnesty clause, many highly paid players have been waived only to find new teams shortly thereafter. For players like Chauncey Billups (Knicks to Clippers) and Elton Brand (76ers to Mavericks), the problem wasn't that they lacked all use on the basketball court — it was simply that they made too much money given their contributions. Precious few of the amnestied players have failed to find new work at all, because it's not as if their large contracts were handed out with no on-court basis at all.
However, some players present different problems altogether. Consider, for instance, former Washington Wizards forward Andray Blatche, whose remaining three years and $23 million were wiped from the franchise's salary cap figures in mid-July. Over his seven years in DC, Blatche cultivated a reputation as a troublemaker and malcontent. So, despite his considerable abilities and the near-constant need for talented big men around the NBA, Blatche has earned very little interest on the open market.
"My dream destination right now would be back on the court. For real. Just to get back on the court," he said. "It's something I love to do. It doesn't matter if it's the Heat or the Spurs or the D League. Whatever. As long as I'm back on the court playing ball.
"I mean, I love the game. I'm a fan of the game. I love playing basketball. That's the only thing I've been doing since I've been little. Basketball is something that is very, very important to me."
While these comments might seem like the mark of a player hanging onto his career by any means, it's also true that Blatche appears to be committed to improving himself. As Ditota notes elsewhere in the piece, Blatche was struck up a relationship with former NBA player, coach, and drug addict John Lucas in the hopes of ending bad habits and improving his life. Blatche has moved to a condo near Lucas's home in Houston and started a regular workout including yoga, weight training, and on-court drills.
Those changes won't convince teams that Blatche is an entirely new man. He's dug himself too large a hole to climb out so easily — it's not easy to cast off a history that includes the infamous "Lap Dance Tuesday" party and the least effective captaincy in NBA history. (For that matter, Blatche has claimed newfound maturity before with poor results.) At this point in his career, Blatche will need to prove his commitment in a basketball context before anyone believes him. History suggests that no one should take his promises too seriously.
Yet that doesn't mean Blatche isn't telling the truth about his commitment, or that he's not serious about playing in the D-League to get another shot at the NBA. In fact, it's easy to make the argument that professing an interest in playing in the D-League shows that Blatche understands his current plight. And while he will still have to prove himself on the court, the mere fact that he's discussing the possibility of a stint in some of the country's smallest basketball cities can be a good sign. All Blatche requires is the opportunity to show that his talk means something. Given that he averaged 16.8 ppg and 8.2 rpg just two seasons ago, it would seem prudent for someone to give him that low-risk chance.