Blatche More Comfortable With Saunders
With the Wizards Summer League team ahead by double digits in the second half tonight, Andray Blatche turned to Antawn Jamison, who was watching from the bleachers.
"'Tawn, I've got your numbers," said Blatche, who was on his way to a double-double.
"Nope," said Jamison with a laugh. "I'm looking at it right now. Not close."
Of course, Blatche's 21-point, 10-rebound performance was somewhat Jamison-like, although it also came with seven turnovers and a few moments where Blatche looked more like a typical Summer League rookie than a guy entering his fifth NBA season.
Blatche is actually younger than seven of the guys on this Summer League roster--including third-year standbys Nick Young and Dominic McGuire--and he said that the offseason coaching change could be a boon to his career.
"Just this whole organization, the vibe I'm getting, it's more confidence for us young players," he said. "We have great coaches that are always boosting us up. Each one of the players has a personal relationship with [Coach] Flip [Saunders]. You know, he texts us, he gives us words of wisdom, he stays in your ear, he just gives you that little push you need, and I feel that's key for us winning this season."
Blatche was clearly hinting that this was a change from the past, and he later said so explicitly.
"I just feel I belong here now," he said. "This is my first time having a real good relationship with a coach in the NBA, that he actually takes out the time and texts me and just checks on me. It gives me a lot of confidence. Eddie [Jordan] was a veteran coach, he was tough on young players, so I didn't really have a real strong relationship with Eddie."
Saunders is also a veteran coach, but Blatche has already been working with him on post moves, defense and conditioning. He talked tonight with a post-game calmness and seriousness he hasn't often displayed, and said several times how important this year is for him, especially with the vacuum in the Wizards' frontcourt following their trade for Mike Miller and Randy Foye.
"I mean, the NBA's all about opportunity, and I feel like my opportunity is coming, so I'm just trying to take full control of it," he said. [Saunders] said just keep working hard, keep busting your ass, and things will pay off in the end....Once I seen that [trade] happen, I said, 'Well, this is an opportunity. This is my opportunity to step up and get some real key big minutes next year coming off the bench....We're not sure what they're gonna do, we're not sure if they're gonna sign another big or whatever. But right now, me and JaVale [McGee], we see this as an opportunity for us, and we just want to come out here and try to compete at that position so they won't have to get nobody else."
That said, the Wizards veterans will probably wait a few months before sending Blatche congratulations for his all-star campaign. I caught up with Jamison after the Wizards' win, and asked what he needed to see from Blatche this season.
"Same thing that we've been needing from the last couple years, just to be consistent," Jamison said. "We know what he can do. We know he's talented. We just need him to bring it night in and night out, rebound, be a post threat, offensively, defensively, just going in every direction. We just need him to be consistent with it."
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