March 24, 2010
In the midst of this dreadful season, the one tiny, minuscule speck of hope for the Washington Wizards has been the play of Andray Blatche(notes) over the past month. Following the trade of Antawn Jamison, Blatche hasn't had a game with fewer than 12 points or 27 minutes. Basically, he's made being a Wizards fan at least OK for the time being.
But Tuesday night, he joined the cavalcade of disasters that has defined this season's Wizards with a childish reason for sitting on the bench. From the Washington Post's Gene Wang:
To make matters worse, Wizards Coach Flip Saunders benched starting forward Andray Blatche after he played just 7 minutes 31 seconds. Saunders said he pulled Blatche initially to discuss the player not getting back on defense but that Blatche refused to listen to the coaching staff.
Saunders said his assistants attempted to talk to Blatche about the situation multiple times but that Blatche's response was he "just didn't want to play."
"I'm disappointed. I'm the most disappointed I've ever been in 15 years with a player," Saunders said. "Most disappointed."
As FanHouse's Tom Ziller mentions, being Flip Saunders' most disappointing player in his coaching career is fairly impressive. Considering he's coached Isaiah Rider, Stephon Marbury(notes), Anthony Peeler, Dennis Scott, Rod Strickland and Latrell Sprewell, that's quite an accomplishment. Not necessarily the thing you want to achieve, but it's good to make an impression, I suppose.
Oh, and Tuesday night was also the beginning of the Wizards' campaign for Blatche as this season's Most Improved Player. So, you know, that's another loss for Washington. Even the Nets are like, "sorry guys."
UPDATE: Blatche has disputed Saunders' account of the incident, saying that what the coach said is "a bold-faced lie." He continued:
"I never said I didn't want to be coached or didn't want to play. Who the hell doesn't want to play? If I didn't want to play, I wouldn't have sat with a heat pack waiting to go back in. I would've unlaced my damn shoes and sat there. It just wasn't true. I don't know why he would say it."
And now, everything seems to be fine. Or at least as fine as they can be for the Wizards. Saunders countered:
"As I told him, when he came out of the game, it was a situation that if he wanted to go back in the game he had to talk to me, accept coaching. We talked about the situation, he didn't want to talk during the game about it, so he didn't play. We talked. It's over with. You move forward."
It seems the Wizards have done just that as Blatche was among the starting five when Washington took the court Wednesday night against the Pacers. He even led the team in minutes played, so everything is hunky dory. For now.
But give it a week — these are the Wizards we're talking about.