From Attraction to Distraction
For years the D.C. area has been saddled with tainted sporting talent. Instead of looking for the missing piece of a championship puzzle, we continue to look for athletes with missing pieces, crossed wires and un-straightened priorities.
Alexander Semin; will he ever play as big as the moment? Gilbert Arenas; will he grow up and be a leader or just a jaded star? Albert Haynesworth; if you really believed he could ever be a contributing member of the Redskins organization then you probably also believed that O.J. was innocent.
Andray Blatche is just the latest example of a D.C. star with promise that had his punch spiked with disappointment. Whereas other NBA teams enjoy continued exposure of talent, Wizards fans are tantalized with more flashes of brilliance than spring break in Cancun; these flashes keep us hanging onto dreams that rarely materialize into reality.
Kwame Brown showed flashes, Jarvis Hayes showed flashes and at the end of the last two seasons, Andray Blatche has officially joined this well-populated fraternity of flashes in the pan rather than those who pan out.
Meanwhile, fans of the Wizards and the Wizards organization are left sitting on their hands, holding onto a 30-point scoring game, a 20-rebound performance and a mature postgame press conference, all the while awaiting Blatche and others like him to ripen into greatness, much like a girl anxiously waiting for her man to settle down and commit to a long-term relationship.
The Fortune Cookie
Like many a quarterback controversy and political debate in the D.C. area, the town is predictably divided with regards to the future of Andray Blatche in the organization.
Is five years (Blatche’s time in the NBA) enough? That is one more than the President gets to prove that he is worthy of re-election. A large portion of the Wizards fanbase would rather go back to the old, sleepy, blue and bronze pajama uniforms than vote for Blatche to return next year.
There are those such as former Wizards season-ticket holder Jeff Johns who believe his insubordinate attitude, shoddy work-ethic, off-the-court distractions and spotty performance are enough to warrant packaging him up with a side of lo mein and a few fortune cookies to get him out of Chinatown.
“There is no way he should be any part of our future. Besides the fact that his game just really isn't that good save for a couple plays a game, he is a terrible example to John Wall—it's Wall’s team and Blatche needs to get out of the way.”
When asked if he would advocate keeping Blatche, Johns responded, “Only if he never again dares to throw up fadeaway 20-footers instead of driving the open lane.”
To Jeff and others, if John Wall represents the Great Wall of China, then Blatche is the Forbidden City. Their Andray Blatche fortune cookie might read: “When one door shuts, a hundred open.”
Others such as lifelong Wizards fan Dave Ho crack open the fortune cookie that is Blatche and read: “Good things come to those that wait.”
To them, the flashes of brilliance that Blatche has displayed, as well as the favorable financial situation that Blatche presents, warrant giving him at least one more year to prove his worth.
“Blatche should stay. He might be a knucklehead at times but at the end of the day he’s still a talented seven-footer that can put the ball on the floor and is solid from the mid-range. He’s only 24 years old and is beginning to enter his prime. Blatche suffered a foot injury last summer, which contributed to his poor conditioning and weight gain; when healthy though, he's shown he can put up 20-10 on a consistent basis.”
There is something about size that sells in pro basketball. The prospect of a power forward with the potential to score and rebound playing for your team is enough to make Cleveland fans willing to walk around in No. 6 Miami Heat jerseys. It is the reason that Ron Artest kept catching on with teams after his incident, and the reason why Shaq, aka the "Big (insert catchy nickname)" kept playing until it would have been more beneficial to just stack a washer and dryer on top of each other under both baskets.
Making the Grade
The majority of fans act like the father of a misbehaving child—thoroughly disapproving of Blatche’s performance and antics, yet perpetually willing to forgive and extend one more year worth of chances. The last two or three seasons have probably found them offering the same ultimatum: “If Blatche doesn’t perform up to expectations this year he is done.”
Third generation Washingtonian Julian Smith would belong to this camp. His words sound like those of a teacher who has seen the occasional A-grade work from one of his students, but all too often is presented with C-material at best.
“I think he should be a part of our short-term future (emphasis on short), but Wiz faithful shouldn't get used to having him around. He gained some weight last year, and fell short of my personal expectations. If he keeps associating himself with having "Lap dance Tuesdays" or whatever he's got going on in Miami, I don't want that distraction as a part of our future.”
The futures of many former Wizards players such as Jared Jeffries or Steve Blake were never wrestled over the same way as Blatche’s has been. The reason was that most of these players performed up to expectations. They were capable of C-grade and B-grade results and delivered on them. A 30- or even 20-point performance from players like these would be considered a blessing. Blatche has treated us to a sizeable helping of A-grade work to the point where we have come to accept that anything less is not due to a lack of talent and skill, but desire and effort.
Goodbye, Mr. Blatche
Blatche should never have shown the D.C. faithful that he is capable of the skillful offensive performances and the aggressive, calculated rebounding/defending he has occasionally displayed. We all want more now, but probably need to awaken to the reality that is the conundrum of Andray Blatche; he is about as reliable as a Chinese firework.
The bright bursts of sparks are more than enough to woo even the most devout and knowledgeable basketball fans, but too often the firework’s fuse won't light for games, or it just meekly tips over on its side and lays there. Well, this time I say that we don’t even bother picking it up. Blatche needs to go.
Is the man at the bar spending good money but consistently bothering other patrons and causing a weekly scene worth keeping as a customer? How will the Wizards ever raise the overall standards of their organization and attract quality free agents if they keep the Andray Blatches of the world lingering around? Blatche and others of his ilk are more promise than production, more “what if” than “what matters.” They are the hands but not the heart—the mouth but not the head.
A higher caliber of player with stronger moral fibers and dedication to not only personal, but team goals needs to be sought by the Wizards organization. After the whole Gilbert Arenas debacle, this town needs to start thinking in terms of reliability instead of potential; they should be asking what kind of teammate rather than what kind of individual performer a player is. In a city that loves numbers, it’s unfortunate that they don’t keep a stat for this.
Royce Jeffrey is a writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials.