According to Michael Lee of The Washington Post, the Wizards are inclined to part ways with the much-maligned forward, as well they should be.
Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld has worked diligently over the past two years to expunge the mistakes of the Gilbert Arenas era and clear the locker room of any negative influences on the development of franchise-star-to-be John Wall. He swapped Agent Zero's Untradeable Contract for that of Rashard Lewis, sent Lewis' deal to New Orleans in exchange for solid (if expensive) veterans Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, and, in between, turned the knuckleheaded duo of JaVale McGee and Nick Young into Nene.
Not bad for a season or two of work, though Grunfeld's "Extreme Makeover" won't be complete without booting Blatche, the biggest bonehead of them all. He's the one player left in D.C. who's been around for all of the Wizards' recent woes. He's been arrested for soliciting sex and driving recklessly, fined by the team for taking part in a pistol-themed celebration with Arenas and benched indefinitely for showing up decidedly out of shape.
All of which makes more tragic the fact that Blatche is a gifted young basketball player, or rather would be if he had his head screwed on straight. A second-round pick out of South Kent Prep in the 2005 NBA draft, Blatche went on to show considerable promise as a 6'11" forward who could score, rebound, pass and handle the ball like a guard.
By 2010, he'd shown enough to convince the Wizards that he was ready for his first big payday—to the tune of a five-year, $35 million extension. Blatche immediately rewarded Washington's faith with a banner year, averaging 16.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals at the tender age of 23.
Then the lockout came and, like so many of his peers, Blatche didn't exactly keep up a steady workout regimen, to the point where he came into camp woefully out of shape. That—and the decidedly lax attitude that pervaded the Wizards' roster last season—resulted in a disconcerting regression in Blatche's on-court performance. His points per game were nearly cut in half, while his rebounding numbers dropped by close to a third in just 26 games played during the 66-game season.
Along the way, Blatche became a symbol of all that was wrong with the Wizards. He slacked off on defense, loafed around the perimeter on offense and demonstrated an all-around lack of interest or desire in the locker room. It wasn't exactly a surprise then when Washington's home crowds began to boo Blatche whenever he took the floor.
The situation eventually deteriorated to the point where the Wizards benched Blatche to close the season, citing poor conditioning on his part. In the meantime, Washington's coaching staff divvied up Blatche's minutes between rookies Trevor Booker, Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton, thereby signaling a desire and readiness to move on without him.
The additions of Nene and Okafor only made the prospect of a Blatche-less future that much easier.
And, with Lewis' onerous contract now long gone, Blatche's deal remains the only one on Washington's books that might reasonably be slated for amnesty—he's owed approximately $23 million over the next three seasons.
For the Wizards, though, the issue may be one of finances rather than fit. Clearing Blatche's money off the cap would likely force Washington to spend in order to stay above the salary floor, without much of a free-agent market from which to choose.
As such, it stands to reason that the Wizards would consider keeping Blatche around for another year and cutting him loose in 2013, when Washington will have the financial flexibility and the opportunity to pursue some more serious additions on the open market.
But—in the interest of freeing John Wall from folly, keeping incoming rookie Bradley Beal immune to the same and breaking cleanly from the turbulent period that plagued the transition of ownership between the Pollins and Ted Leonsis—the Wizards would be wise to sever ties with Andray Blatche as soon as possible and move forward with a fresher, more successful era of pro basketball in D.C.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!