Blatche Remembers His Shattered Backboard
The Wizards were off Thursday, and will resume Summer League action Friday. Instead of going out and enjoying the 110 weather, I went to watch them practice at Durango High, 15 or so minutes from the strip. A few notes:
Durango Like Home
The gym has good karma for the Wizards. Mike Miller, who worked out at the school before his teammates, used the gym to boost his high school ranking by several hundred spots during an AAU tournament, according to an interview he did with Comcast SportsNet.
And Andray Blatche went to Tim Grgurich's Big Man Camp in that gym following one of his first NBA seasons. He was doing a one-on-one drill against Hakim Warrick when this happened.
"You had to come off the screen and go to the basket, and Hakim was checking me," Blatche said. "I came around a screen and just jumped as high as I can, because I knew he was a shot blocker, and I just came down hard and it shattered, pshhhh. I had to go the hospital, got a couple stitches in my arm. I was real happy. I was gonna get a tattoo about it, 'Rim Breaking' or something.
"At first it felt like just water, until after I dunked, I felt everything sticking in there. They had to take me to the hospital and take all the glass off my head, off my body, so they cut me up. I couldn't take a regular shower, they had to pick it all off. I was in the hospital all day. It was crazy. Every time I see [Warrick], I make jokes about it: 'I made you my poster but without the cameras.' "
That was the first and only time Blatche has broken a backboard.
On Wednesday's Loss
Most of the players had bolted on Wednesday before I could chat with them, so I didn't have a chance to get more reaction about their ugly 77-70 loss to a Denver Nuggets team without much in the way of NBA prospects. This is Summer League, so it felt nothing like the day after a regular season loss, but they were obviously unhappy.
"Disappointing," Dominic McGuire said. "Just coming out too anxious. I didn't really play my game yesterday, that's all that was. It was reckless, though. I can admit that, it was reckless. It'll be better, but I was reckless yesterday, I admit that."
"Man, it was crazy," Blatche said. "A lot of the guys were trying to go off themselves, but in reality it's more than just playing for yourself, it's playing for your team. So that set us back. A lot of selfish play, and after one person did it, another person did it, another person did it. After a while it just turned into a big mess."
The Wizards' next three games are all at better times and against higher-profile opponents (including the Clippers, who are the stars here with Blake Griffin, and the Knicks), so it's hard to imagine another game as dreary as Wednesday's.
Young's Zero Assists
I asked Nick Young about his 53-0 points to assist-ratio thus far, and he tried to argue that he has more than 53 points. "Damn!" Dominic McGuire said, nearby, with a laugh, while Young tried to call McGuire "my Pippen." I should note that Young sees me as bloggy jokester, not beat writer, so he wasn't answering the questions the way he would have if a realer reporter was there. So no outrage, ok?
"It's hard out there man," Young said. "[Wednesday] I went on that little 10-point streak in five minutes, and then didn't score until the end of the third. It's hard, you know. Summer League, everybody's trying to show their talent off to the coaches; it's hard to get assists unless you constantly have the ball in your hands. I was always taught, shoot first, ask questions later."
On the Future
Many of you have expressed doubts about Blatche's recent promise to take advantage of his latest opportunity, and it's understandable, given the relationship between what he's said and what's done in the past. I can say that, without a doubt, he's made some weird quantum leap in talking with the media. I've never seen him anywhere close to as good with the media as he's been this week. Here's what he said about his teammates, and bear in mind, I asked the question, he wasn't just offering this up.
"JaVale's a great player,' Blatche said. "If he focuses on the things he does the best, that make the crowd love him--blocking shots, rebounding, and then if he's at the rim and he's got a put back, put it back. That's what I want him to focus on more. Because he's a great player, if he just sticks to that. And Nick, I see a big improvement in Nick. His shot is more efficient, and they have him playing defense this year. Dominic, you know what to expect from him, he's gonna play defense no matter what. He's a real hustle player, a lot of energy. So everybody's making improvements."
I asked a few players to compare the practices run by Flip Saunders with those run by Eddie Jordan. Some said Saunders stops the action to coach more, and some said Jordan did. Some said Jordan did more talking during practice, and some said Saunders did. So take that for what it's worth.
I can say that Saunders, wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and a bright pink whistle, was doing what seemed to me like an awful lot of shouting and cajoling and whistle-blowing and running up and down the court. The players I spoke with all agreed there was slightly more running than was typical, but they said that was probably more about this being Summer League than the coach.
Saunders has frequently joked about the size of his playbook, which is remarkable in D.C., given his last name, and I want to ask him about this before I leave.
Blatche has mentioned more than once how much it means to him that Saunders checks in so regularly with phone calls or texts. Blatche said he's heard from Saunders about once a week since he was hired. So I asked the coach why he does this.
"I do it with all the guys on the roster," Saunders said. "You know, just trying to let them know where we're at, and trying to keep focused as far as what we're trying to do as a team and as individuals. I just remind them on things, just the whole ball of wax. If a guy texts back, then we might have a conversation. Caron was surprised--one night, he sent me a text, it was like 2, 3 in the morning, and I texted him right back. And he goes, 'Man, you don't sleep, do you?"
I don't think I knew that Saunders almost went to play college basketball at Maryland. It was apparently next on his list after Minnesota.
A Question I Probably Shouldn't Pose
I was asking some of the other media members who would be the answer to this question: "Mike Miller is the Wizards/Bullets best white player since....." There was no consensus. I will keep working on this. In a purely jesting, non-offensive way.
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