By Shaun Ahmad
Coming off an injury-riddled season, forward Andray Blatche is entering his seventh year in the NBA and perhaps his most pivotal. Despite playing only 64 games in 2010-11, Blatche was effective while averaging career highs of 16.8 points per game and 8.2 rebounds, including nearly three on the offensive end.
But those who follow the Wizards knew that despite the promising numbers, sometimes gaudy, it was the inconsistency and immaturity that kept Blatche from becoming a star. This has been the story of his career, which is why it was refreshing to see that he wanted to be the first player back in the gym with the lockout ending.
"I was starting to lose hope and I didn't think there would be a season this year," Blatche said. "Every time there was a negotiation, everything kept going wrong. Now, there's a season, and I can't wait to get back."
Whether he can shoulder the load on a night in and night out basis remains to be seen. Though if his hitting the gym early and often is any sign, then it would seem that the young squad would have a bright future ahead. While Washington is no threat for a playoff run this season, let alone a championship, the team is gearing toward a strong rebuild based on a nucleus of young talent. Blatche has been here for several years, and whether he remains as a part of the team's future depends largely on his performance on and off the court this year.
Faltering or having maturity issues could take him down the path of being a tradeable asset in 2012. A strong season full of leadership and positive intangibles could make him the second pillar to stand opposite John Wall in what all Wizards' fans hope is a successful rebuild.