Andray Blatche isn’t going to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award, but the backup center deserves more credit for what he’s done with the Brooklyn Nets.
While Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez have garnered the majority of the media attention, Blatche has continued to provide the Nets with consistent production on a nightly basis. In fact, he’s the only player on the roster outside the aforementioned trio averaging double-digit points.
The 26-year-old is averaging 10.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and a team-high 1.1 steals in just 18.8 minutes per game.
Blatche’s annual salary for 2012-13 is a modest $854,389, so his contributions have come at a discounted price. But he doesn’t mind. Since being amnestied by the Washington Wizards last summer, he’s found a new home in Brooklyn and has no intention of leaving.
"I feel like this is my new home, now, really” said Blatche. “I feel comfortable with everything that's going on." (via ESPNNewYork.com)
Normally players shouldn’t be given credit simply for good behavior, but general manager Billy King and former coach Avery Johnson knew they were taking a big risk when they signed Blatche to a one-year contract in July.
During his career with the Wizards from 2005-2012, Blatche was involved in several controversial incidents that culminated in his abrupt release.
After being selected in the 2005 NBA Draft straight out of high school, he was shot during a carjacking in September and missed training camp. On January 9, 2010, Blatche was fined $10,000 and suspended by the Wizards for joking about teammate Gilbert Arenas’s gun charges in a pregame huddle.
On March 20, 2012, the Wizards announced that they were benching him indefinitely due to a lack of conditioning, and he was finally waived in July.
Aside from being questioned by police as a witness in a sexual assault case in Philadelphia on January 8, he’s been a far more responsible citizen with the Nets. Blatche was in the wrong place at the wrong time in Philly, and all indications are that he’s rededicated himself to improving both on and off the court.
Blatche spent last summer working with former NBA star John Lucas and reported to training camp in excellent shape.
In early January Billy King called Blatche “a kid that wanted to resurrect his career.”
“I’m happy for him,” he added (via New York Times).
Blatche is the heart and soul of the Nets’ second unit.
When leading scorer Brook Lopez takes a break, it’s Blatche who picks up the slack in his absence. He’s recorded six double-doubles while scoring at least 20 points in five games and has ripped down at least 10 rebounds six times.
Blatche started seven games in late November when Lopez injured his foot. He averaged 17.5 points per game over that stretch, which included a 22-point, 15-rebound effort against the Golden State Warriors on December 7.
The Nets’ big man also deserves recognition for being extremely versatile. He possesses a rare combination of size and agility that allows him to be effective at both the four and five positions. Blatche played power forward for the majority of his career with the Wizards. Since coming to Brooklyn, however, the 6’11” 260-pound giant has been utilized as a backup center.
Blatche’s unique skill set makes him a matchup nightmare for opposing big men. In addition to being too quick for most centers and too big for the majority of power forwards, he has an exceptional mid-range game and isn’t afraid to beat defenders off the dribble.
One pump fake and a lightning quick first step are all the big cat needs to leave opponents in the dust.
No. 0 also brings it on the defensive end of the floor. It’s no coincidence he ranks second on the team in steals per game. In addition to being extraordinarily quick, Blatche has been blessed with a nine-foot standing reach and a 7-foot-2 wing span. More often than not, Blatche’s steals lead to easy transition buckets like the one seen in the video above.
As reported by Stefan Bondy of the Daily News on Wednesday March 6, P.J. Carlesimo said he was going to use a 10-man rotation and give rookie power forward Mirza Teletovic more minutes. He also mentioned the idea of playing Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche together more in tandem.
After three games passed, Carlesimo finally played Lopez and Blatche together in the same lineup during a March 12 contest against the Charlotte Hornets. The Nets’ two most talented frontcourt men combined for 44 points and 10 rebounds in the 108-98 victory.
"He [Blatche] has such a high basketball IQ," said Lopez after the win, "and he plays so well with everyone on the floor, which makes everyone's job a lot easier."
"Andray makes the game easier for me." (via ESPN.com)
It’s a shame Brooklyn wasn’t able to acquire a serviceable backup center at the trade deadline. Otherwise the Lopez-Blatche tandem could have become something more than just an experiment.
Blatche is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season, but the backup center told Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com that he wants to stay in Brooklyn. If he continues to be productive and stay out of trouble the Nets’ front office should do everything they can this summer to keep Blatche in black and white.
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