After seven disappointing seasons in a Washington Wizards uniform, forward Andray Blatche has finally been exiled from the nation's capital.
Michael Lee of the Washington Post reported that Blatche was waived by the team today under the new collective bargaining agreement's amnesty clause. In other words, the Wizards were able to dump the remaining three years and $23 million from Blatche's contract off their payroll and finally move on in a new direction, allowing the team to pursue a mid-level free agent before training camp begins.
For diehard Wizards fans, this move can only be categorized as long-overdue relief. Selected in the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft out of South Kent High School in Connecticut, Blatche never panned out as the dominant post player that the Wizards organization believed he could be. His off-court antics, frequently poor conditioning, and unsatisfactory play over the years quickly made him an unwelcome presence in D.C.
Waiving Blatche cements Washington's recent plan to remove all traces of the so-called Gilbert Arenas era from the franchise's memory. Blatche was the only player left on the roster who was present during the embarrassing 2010 fiasco involving Arenas and then-teammate Javaris Crittenton bringing guns to the Verizon Center locker room.
Following the incident, Blatche and his teammates participated in an inappropriate pre-game ritual that involved Arenas pretending to shoot his fellow Wizards with his hands. At the very least, these shenanigans proved that Blatche and some of his teammates were not the type of people that Ted Leonsis wished to keep on his roster when he bought the team from former owner Abe Pollin's widow.
Blatche's participation in "Gungate" still only played a small role in turning D.C. fans against him. The Post's Dan Steinberg chronicled Blatche's many offcourt escapades today that brought back memories of his 2007 arrest for attempting to solicit sex from an undercover police officer, his emceeing of "Lapdance Tuesdays" at a South Florida beach club, and his participation in a 2010 brawl outside a nightclub with tag team partner JaVale McGee.
All sports fans are no strangers to their favorite players committing off-the-court indiscretions. When athletes behave like Blatche their accomplishments on the field are what seem to validate them in the eyes of their fans. Just look at someone like Jason Kidd who allegedly abused his wife, recently was arrested for DWI and yet is viewed by many as a hero and one of the greatest point guards of all time.
Blatche's on-court performance never validated him for anything.
Once hyped as the future of the franchise, Blatche finished his career in Washington having averaged approximately 10 points and five rebounds per game in his seven NBA seasons. Frequently out of shape and lazy on the court, Blatche's lackluster showing for the Wizards reached a head this season in which he averaged a career low in shooting percentage and his worst scoring average since the 2007-08 season.
Early on he verbally sparred with former coach Flip Saunders and was eventually sent home for poor conditioning by current head coach Randy Wittman. But even before he was sent home, the city had turned against him. Blatche was lustily booed whenever he entered the game at the Verizon Center and trashed in every Internet forum that follows the Wizards.
It didn't help matters that he was the second highest paid player on the Wizards last year behind Rashard Lewis and lacked any semblance of motivation or leadership during the lockout shortened season.
Simply put, long-time Wizards fans will be quite pleased to see him gone.
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