The booing of Wizards forward Andray Blatche is becoming more popular at Verizon Center. The noticeable jeers started when Blatche was introduced as a starter on Wednesday against Oklahoma City and grew louder in Fridays game against Denver.
Against the Nuggets, Blatches stat line was not a good one. Blatche failed to score and was 0-for-7 from the field shooting with five fouls and three turnovers in 26 minutes on the floor. Last week, Blatche missed three games with a sprained right shoulder and visited with a specialist in New York.
Andray is almost too methodical, said Wizards head coach Flip Saunders. He was a plus four tonight. Even though he didnt score, the team performed better when he was on the court tonight. Hes struggling right now but he is a part of who we are and the guys are building him up to come back, and Im sure well see that on Sunday. It is a part of the maturity process but he is a part of our family and we are going to help him get through it.
On Wednesday when the booing of Blatche seemed to amplify, he was actually a critical part of the upset win over the Thunder. The Wizards won that game on the boards with a 52-43 rebounding edge and Blatche grabbed 10 rebounds to go with 12 points and 4 assists. On Monday against the Rockets, Blatche had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Blatche has increased his scoring and rebounding average in each of his first six seasons. Often unnoticed was that Blatche played much of last season with nagging injuries. Through almost all of 2010-11 Blatche played through knee, hip and shoulder injuries.
The sprained right shoulder, the same one that is ailing now, finally forced Blatche to miss 10 games late in March of last season. When he returned from the 10-game absence, Blatche averaged 22.8 points and 10 rebounds in the final nine games of the season.
A lot of people have been critical of Andray, said Saunders. But if you look at games in which he played we had our best winning percentage when he played. He has talked more about team success than he has ever in the past. He has the right attitude.
Blatche has not been perfect, but on a 2-13 team, perfection is not going to be found. The ire directed at Blatche is reminiscent of more than a decade ago when Juwan Howard was booed while with the Wizards. Much of the anger toward Howard seemed to be triggered by his lucrative contract, which was not his fault.
Howard remained professional during his time in Washington and it is no coincidence that his professionalism has helped him carve out a successful career. Howard is playing for Miami and in his 18th season.
Fair or not, the challenge Howard faced with the Wizards is now on Blatches shoulders. It's probably not fair. Blatche only has one healthy shoulder.