The Key to Blatche's Breakout
Many thanks to Reader Joey M., who sent the following e-mail last week:
Have you ever noticed that during the player introductions B. Haywood always stops and yells at A. Blatche? I've wondered what that is all about.
You know Joey, I'm often eating my last bite of garlic bread during player introductions, so no, I hadn't noticed. As it turns out, I wasn't the only one who hadn't noticed.
"Say something to who?" Gilbert Arenas interrupted yesterday, when I brought up the topic in the Wizards locker room.
"Blatche," Haywood replied. "When I come out before the game, I always stop and say something to Blatche. Why I started that, I don't know. One time I just walked up and said something to him, and from then on we just kept doing it."
The messages vary. Sometimes it's a line from a song. Sometimes it's a line from a movie; a recent example was "Who was the first man to wear a shiny suit?" from "Dreamgirls," which led to some sort of on-court dialogue about Little Richard, which the guys recreated for my benefit. Sometimes the pre-game message will be what Blatche calls a "stupid little question" that demands a rote answer. Sometimes it's a purely motivational ploy; against the Lakers on Saturday, with Blatche in line for significant minutes, the message was "hoe up or blow up."
"I know you can't print that," Haywood said. "Can you say 'hoe' in the newspaper? That's not good precedent."
Although personally, I see nothing wrong with a reference to a common garden tool, which is why I'm leaving that extra 'e' in there.
Anyhow, the point is, "every game it's something different," Haywood promised. "Every game it differs, just for Andray."
Naturally, about an hour before the Sonics game, I asked Haywood what that night's message would be, and he said he didn't know yet. He said he usually comes up with the thought of the day right before tip-off.
Fair enough. So I left the locker room, and the intros began, and Haywood, following protocol, stopped and said something to Blatche, and then the Blatche/Haywood combo went out and got crazy, producing by far their best outing of the season. They combined for 34 points--more than double their best previous output--and 18 rebounds, which was also a season high for the duo. Hoe up or blow up, indeed. So, of course, I had to find out what the pre-game message had been.
"I looked at him and I said, 'There's the best, and then there's the rest,'" Haywood told me. "Meaning me and him are the best, and then there's everybody else. That's what I said. It's simple....And he nodded, 'Yeah'."
Crazy, right? Haywood tells Blatche that they're the best, and then they go out produce. It's simple. I figured Haywood would recycle that line Wednesday against the Spurs, but he said no, that he's not superstitious, and that he needs to keep mixing up his messages to preserve their "shock value."
"It's like journalism," Official Wizards Beat Writer Ivan Carter said, knowingly. "Got to mix it up."
Anyhow, I figured I should ask Blatche exactly how much Haywood's "Best and Rest" monologue should be credited for his breakout game. And just to be clear, I started the interview by asking 'Dre to repeat Monday night's message.
"Yesterday, yesterday, yesterday, yesterday, yesterday, yesterday...." 'Dre started. "Aw, man. What did he say to me yesterday? Damn. I can't remember. Aw man, I can't even remember. Shoot. I can't even remember. I mean, I'm pretty much used to him saying something crazy. I can't remember what he said, though."
See? That's the power of pre-game oratory.
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