By John Powell
Not even a month ago, rumors were flying around the Verizon Center that the Wizards were interested in dumping Andray Blatche. He was hurt, he was getting into fights with teammates and his numbers were suffering.
But recently, he seems to play with a bit more energy than before. While JaVale McGee has made a name for himself as one of the league’s high-flyers, consistently dunking and blocking shots, Blatche has become a consistent scorer and rebounder to be relied on.
His field goal percentage numbers are not always pretty. He is, after all, a big forward who puts up a lot of shots. When he has a poor shooting night though, he keeps up the pace on the boards.
Saturday night was an example of everything clicking for the Blatche’s game plan. John Wall fed him the ball all night, himself tallying nine assists. Nick Young, even though he went scoreless in the first quarter and only scored six in the second quarter, pulled defenders to the perimeter, leaving Blatche with better matchups. And it does not hurt that McGee is there to put back Blatche’s shots and vise versa.
His key stats have been improving perennially. Every year since his rookie season, he has made a statistical improvement in scoring and rebounding, even if his shooting percentages are in flux.
But his most recent malady? A shoulder sprain from wrestling for a loose ball against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. It was not a safe bet that he would play Saturday, but he did, and started.
“Shoulder? It’s a little bruised,” Blatche said. “It’s nothing, but I think I have to fight through it and ice it.”
Even when media pressed him he only admitted, “[There was] a sharp pain here and there. But like I said I had to fight through it and help my team get a win.
His best asset may be his ability to direct the game in the fourth quarter. Washington does not do well in the fourth quarter, averaging less than 24 points. Their opponents averaged 25.3. In light of the late meltdowns, most notably the disheartening loss to Miami and the fourth quarter breakdown that sent the Sacramento game to overtime, help is needed in the fourth quarter.
“That’s what I try to do in the fourth quarter: step up and help us get a win,” Blatche said.
That’s what they need out of him: to step up as a veteran and lead the team down the stretch. The team leaders are clearly Kirk Heinrich and Rashard Lewis, but they both play on the outside. When it comes to closing it out, the Wizards need Andray.
With a 13-rebound, 17-point night, they may be figuring it out. It does not hurt to have a good report with the coaching staff, showing himself as a go-to guy.
When something goes wrong, it’s easy to blame him, but when things go right, it’s easy to see his impact.