September 15, 2011
Over the course of his six-year career with the Washington Wizards, big man Andray Blatche(notes) has been one of the most frustrating players in the NBA. Armed with considerable natural talent and the rudiments of a varied skill set, Blatche has nevertheless always seemed more content to aim for triple-doubles in pathetic fashion or host club events advertised as "Lapdance Tuesdays" than to be a leader on the court. For a young team, that's a problem.
The good news is that Dray is looking to mature and take on a leadership role in D.C., which Kelly Dwyer hipped you to on Monday. Part of that new approach involved organizing team workouts this week (and beyond) while players are locked out of their usual training facilities. Except, as reported by Michael Lee for The Washington Post, turnout hasn't been quite as impressive as expected:
Blatche, who will enter his seventh season this fall, said he got commitments from more than half of the players on the team, but when the workouts finally began this week at Columbia Gym in Clarksville, only Hamady Ndiaye(notes) and first-round pick Chris Singleton(notes) were able to join him. Blatche didn't get the turnout he had hoped for, since some players decided to participate in trainer Joe Abunassar's Impact Basketball Competitive Training Series in Las Vegas this week, and others elected to work out on their own.
"The only thing that held us back was we had half the team booked, but when the Vegas thing came up, that changed a lot of guys' minds," said Blatche, who was pleased to have an opportunity to work out and bond with Ndiaye and Singleton over the past three days.
Singleton, the 18th pick of the June draft, flew up from Tallahassee — where he's taking classes at Florida State — and stayed at Blatche's home in Bowie, where Blatche's mother, Angela Oliver, provided home-cooked meals afterward. "The way I look at it, once you're teammates, you're all brothers," Blatche said after a two-hour workout this week. "I want us to be more active with each other and start to build a bond so that when the season comes in, we already have our rhythm and we already know what guys are going to do and basically what's going to happen. My vision on this was getting a head start before all the other teams. We was one of the worst teams last season and we shouldn't have been, so with me studying the tapes and studying the game, I feel like we need to do this now and get a head start."
I'm of two minds on this story. On one hand, it is somewhat hilarious that Blatche tried to act like a veteran and all but two of his teammates decided the meeting wasn't worth their time. It's almost as if they thought the meeting would be a disorganized mess during which players shoot on their own and possibly convene after each practice for games of boo-ray.
In reality, though, these workouts seem pretty professional. For instance, Blatche employed trainer Joe Connelly to organize drills, brought in a few local players to increase turnout, supplied water and Gatorade for everyone, and handed out shirts marked with the oddly worded slogan "Playoff Starts Here." As far as workouts involving young basketball players go, these were about professional as possible.
The marginal turnout is a concern, of course, especially for what it says about Blatche's ability to command respect in the locker room. (In an ideal world, John Wall(notes) would be organizing these workouts, but he's busy in Vegas.) However, we should applaud Dray's commitment to responsibility, even if he still has a long way to go. Professionalism has to begin somewhere, and getting two guys to join an informal workout is as good a start as any.