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Blatche stepping up

I can't add much to the Gilbert love fest after what he did last night. Not sure I've ever seen anything like it. However, in terms of how this team shapes up over the long term, one of the most encouraging things about that win was the way young Andray Blatche played. He's really coming along and Eddie Jordan is slowly giving him more minutes.

I wrote a few days back that Andray seems to have come to the understanding that the best way for him to get on the floor is to hustle on defense, block a few shots and rebound like a young Dennis Rodman. He'll never be that but he does have the length and athletic ability to to give this team a periodic shot in the arm off the bench. You can also see his confidence level rising. He was pretty down after struggling during the preseason and then he got buried in Eddie's rotation - justifiably so - but now that injuries have opened up an opportunity, he's grasping it. One key: he's not just floating around the perimeter waiting for a pass so he can launch up a jumper. He's attacking the offensive glass and working in the post more. That's key considering the lack of height on this team.

Have you seen the latest the All Star returns? Gilber's third among East guards behind D-Wade and Vince Carter and Caron Butler isn't even in the top 10 among East forwards. Gil's obviously going to be on that team but the Wiz are going to have to keep winning to get two players. Here's an interesting scenerio: What if the Wiz wind up with the best record at the break and Eddie gets to coach the team? The way this team is rolling, that is not a out of the relm of possibility. Do the East coaches add Caron as a reserve? They'd have to, wouldn't they? Tough juice is playing the best ball of his career right now.


By Ivan Carter  |  January 4, 2007; 5:15 PM ET
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Next: Arenas, the MVP?


I don't see how -- if Caron Butler doesn't get the fan votes to go to Vegas -- the NBA coaches would refuse to select him as a reserve.

This season has already provided numerous highs and lows, thanks to the Hibachi and the overall drama supplied as the Wizards try to establish its chemistry, adjust to injuries and identify itself. But through it all, Butler has been a consistent and competent presence.

Scoring points, getting boards, playing tough on defense and scrapping, he's done it all.

GA might be the straw that stirs the drink here, but 'tough juice' provides this franchise with some much-needed heart, grittiness and soul.

Posted by: iceberg | January 4, 2007 5:54 PM | Report abuse

This IS Ivan right? ;)

"Have you seen the latest the All Star returns?"

Yes, if AI was still in the East Gilbert would STILL be 4th. I've been voting everyday and so should everyone here. Gil is going up but I honestly can't see how Carter is ahead of him.

"What if the Wiz wind up with the best record at the break and Eddie gets to coach the team?"

Jordan would only play "smallball" making anyone over 6'7" upset and he would never use his bench. :P

"Do the East coaches add Caron as a reserve?"

Yeah, I and I honestly think he makes it anyway. He's having that type of year and I think people are taking notice.

Please go vote for all the Wizards for the 2007 NBA All Star game NOW at:

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | January 4, 2007 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Everyone should vote. You can vote more than once a day by emptying your cache and cookies
You also only have to vote for who you want not just fill the ballot

Posted by: PamelaBrandy | January 4, 2007 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Give blatche more minutes instead of Hayes and then leave Haywood in. He could really help out on the defensive end. They should also set him up offensively. This team needs some height, shotblockers, and some dunks/throwdowns to make the game a little exciting to watch. I'm kinda tired seeing jumpers and floaters. He is very athletic.

Posted by: bdunkadunk | January 4, 2007 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Ray-wood you need to see a doctor about your small ball issue. ;-) just kidding.

but... EJ is doing a fine job here, sure he's no Bernie Bickerstaff or Jim Lynam, or Wes Unseld, or Doug Collins... but you can't blame him for that.

This team just lacks depth in the height category at this moment, and I think it is a very justifiable thing to show opponents different looks. Teams are already adjusting to us (see bucks zone).

And frankly unless you are going to the practices it's hard for you to know who is showing up there. EJ has said he plays the guys that hustle... are you suggesting he is a liar? I mean, you seem to think he hates tall people... that's crazier than me thinking you are related to haywood... hmmm. Oh man speaking of Haywood, he looked really slow on the defensive rotations last night, think his ankle is bothering him? Watching him help out on the perimeter I kept getting nervous, our post D is so thin. And then he tried to chase Redd around the court... we got a bit lucky last night. Maybe we need Kevin Duckworth back?

That said, glad to see blatche improving, though I think he needs to get his D together. Those blocks were fun, seems like he might have that nose for the ball.

Voting frantically thanks for posting the links all the time.

Posted by: greg | January 4, 2007 6:45 PM | Report abuse

I know this is a stupid question but why is Shaq even on the All Star Ballot - and one of the top vote getters? He has not played in FOREVER and may not be playing anytime soon.

Reminds me of Tony Romo actually making the NFl Pro Bowl

Posted by: Lisa | January 4, 2007 7:39 PM | Report abuse

I thought Blatche played fine defense last night. He was jumping in and out of lanes and disrupting their perimeter rotations, then getting right back on his man. He made a few mistakes, but it's not like we don't see the same mistakes on D from Jamison or Gilbert on a nightly basis either.

For Caron to publicly say he deserves more minutes immediately means a lot. The kid is only 20 and it looks like he's gotten the jitters out.

Posted by: Justin | January 4, 2007 7:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for Blatche getting Hayes' minutes. He's been an absolute butcher out there on offense, he simply can't hit an open shot to save his life (.372% on the season). To his credit, he's hustling on defense, but that can only take you so far. I think Blatche could give at least as much as Jarvis is on defense, and is probably better on offense now that he's playing in the flow of the sets. It's a shame how far Jarvis has fallen since he was drafted, but at some point you have to cut your losses. If there's one thing I'd like to see the Wiz pick up at the deadline it would be a swingman to replace Jarvis.

Posted by: tanforanalbino | January 4, 2007 7:57 PM | Report abuse

If the Wizards are in first place at the All-Star break Caron is a lock.

Posted by: PTP23 | January 4, 2007 8:37 PM | Report abuse

If Wade continues with the injuries, Gil could be starting his first All-Star game.

Posted by: PTP23 | January 4, 2007 8:38 PM | Report abuse

It's a shame that Caron isn't seriously mentioned for the All Star game. He's putting up the best numbers if his career, playing with huge heart doing a lot of banging for boards, and at times out of position. He would be robbed if he didn't make it.

Posted by: Otis | January 4, 2007 9:53 PM | Report abuse

I was going to bust on you for posting 12 times a day, but then in response to the possibility of Jordan being allstar coach you came up with, "Jordan would only play "smallball" making anyone over 6'7" upset and he would never use his bench." All is forgiven.

Before we say that Butler should make the allstar team, shouldn't we look at who he's competing against? Assume there will be Shaq and Howard at center and no other centers, so that leaves ten others. Wade, Carter, LeBron and Bosh are starters, plus Arenas, Redd, and Pierce for sure. That leave three spots for Joe Johnson, Billups, Jermaine O'Neal (and I think those three are in), someone from Chicago, Rip and Caron. Shaq might be the only one injured, probably replaced by Wallace, so I think it comes down to Rip, someone else from Chicago and Caron.
Did I miss anything?

Posted by: Tough juice | January 4, 2007 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Again, why is Shaq even on the ballot at this point? I know he is the "diesel" but when was the last time he played? Any other player who has been inactive that long would not be on the ballot.

Posted by: Lisa | January 4, 2007 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Caron deserves an all-star spot for sure but its a lock he wont get in. You usually dont make the all star team unless you are a franchise player like Gil, or if you have balled out in the playoffs AND your nice. If Caron shines in the playoffs and we go deep (conference finals for ex) then caron would be in consideration next year.

BTW just the idea of having Eddie coaching the all-star game puts a smile on my face. I'm sure Eddie would still find a way to play Jarvis 25 minutes in that game while Jarvis goes 0-8 on the night.

Our only nightmere matchup this year is Chicago. Orlando would be tough with a healthy Grant Hill, and so would Milwaukee.

Detroit we matchup well with (see last years results even with Big Ben there). Miami just sucks. Cleveland is really starting to feel the effects of Danny Ferry's terrible GM moves. Indy is a mess. NJ is terrible especially without Krstic.

With that said we have a Loooong way to go, and were only a 5 to 6 game losing streak from being in the 9th spot. So in the words of the great Wolf, "lets not start s*cking eachothers d***s just yet".

Posted by: Ray Chris. | January 4, 2007 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Besides the season ending injury, is there anything more disheartening than the "return date uncertain" that we got going for songaila? That usually means half or rest of the season on the shelf.

And yes there are two "Ray's" posting on the blog. I will make sure there is no confusion by avoiding the smiley faces in my posts. haha just kidding, lots of respect to the other "Ray" - he's got me voting for Gil and the fellas regularly.

Posted by: Ray Chris. | January 4, 2007 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ivan, it's my impression that the Wiz could be second in the conference and Eddie would still coach the game, so long as #1 was Detroit. Rules say you can't coach the game twice in a row. CHI is coming on strong though, so mini-thug Scott Skiles may be the guy. And Deng the pick at forward. Plus whatever Shaq replacement is most worthy, if he decides to rest.

Blatche has been saying the right things for a while now, but defense is always tougher to pick up than offense because you can only really learn it in game situations.

This is one reason I've been disappointed that the Wiz haven't really found a use for their junior league squad (the Dakota Wizards). I understand the reasons why-- you want the kid learning the offense, his teammates, practicing with the crew, etc.

The Dakota Wiz aren't last years run gun Roanoke squad. First of all, they're not the 'Dazzle' for cripes' sake. They're 'Wizards' good and proper.

Second they have a defensive coach who has had multiple DPOY types every year in every league he's coached. Fundamentals are his forte.

Third, they're winning in bunches. Nothing puts the right attitude in a player more than doing the right thing and seeing it rewarded with wins. And play time.

Fourth, the Wiz share the team with Chicago. You got to know any CHI-town player is only called up if he can D up. They'll help set the tone.

Ivan (Mike) recognizing it's a moot point without any Wiz sent down (and ain't nobody traveling to the Dakotas in winter) but it would be nice if you'd at least prep the ground work for an article, introduce the Wizfans to the junior product.

Strange that the administration gave up on the concept so quickly. Burned by the Party John experience I guess. Seems a shame to waste the tool.

In any case, Blatche doesn't have quite the quick-twitch reaction speed of the top defensive players. He'll succeed best when he can begin to anticipate the play and play his positional game. (That and pack in a few cheeseburgers and weight room sessions). Game time experience is what it's all about. I'm glad to see he's getting work and developing. I just want more. More. More.

Though natch'rally I hope he has his breakout year NEXT year-- and only after the Wiz have him signed to a cheap and reasonable contract.

It would be top-notch if he could eventually gently and deservedly displace Jamison to a veteran 6th man back-up role (say by the time Tawn's ready to re-up, at a lower price contract). Here AJ could give instant offense and rebounding off the bench; depth at 4 and 3 [!]; and allow them defensive liabilities to be masked and papered over.

And the Gil/[**]/Caron/Pech/Blatche dynasty could begin...

[Fill in the blank with a defensive combo guard/sharpshooter, draft pick or free agent]


Posted by: doclinkin | January 5, 2007 1:30 AM | Report abuse

Someone said that you have to vote for who you want. I disagree. You have to vote for our guys then vote for other guys that aren't really competing with our guys. If you vote for Gilbert, do NOT vote for Carter. Vote For Butler then pick some chooch (I have voted for Okafor for example) because you're vote gets cancelled if you pick someone he is competing with.

Here is my understanding of what an All-Star is:

If you average 21 8 4 with 2 steals a night, shoot 50% from the field and 88% from the line, and lead a 1st place team, you go to the All-Star game.

Can we get some love in the building for Ernie Grunfield locking Caron up to an extension?!!?!? I heart Caron Butler.

Posted by: Bernard King | January 5, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Hey IC, just wondering,

Are you going to the big birthday party for Gil tonight? It would be nice to get some insight on the festivities since John Q Public is not invited. I think this is pretty cool and I don't blame him for keeping it invite only. That hopefully will keep any undesirables out and he won't have to worry about any sensless violence like in Denver.

Posted by: WizFANatic | January 5, 2007 9:07 AM | Report abuse

I like the point about maybe DWade being hurt for the all star game but I think he will try to play somehow (I dont think his injury is serious enough) I think D Wade could play right now but he is really resting his body for a strong 2nd half push.

Did you guys hear about VC possible going to Clippers if this happens GA WILL start but keep voting.

Vote for our big 3 ONLY.

Posted by: the butler did it | January 5, 2007 9:23 AM | Report abuse

"One key: he's not just floating around the perimeter waiting for a pass so he can launch up a jumper. He's attacking the offensive glass and working in the post more. That's key considering the lack of height on this team."

On the money Ivan, as usual! A contributing factor IMO making a big difference is Etan's injury, and the fact that Andray is being asked to come in at CENTER. He is assigned with coming in and defending the rim and rebounding, and he's been doing it! He's coming in with energy and aggressiveness, coming in to follow shots, getting putbacks and blocking shots.

This is what he needs to do to develop. He's got to work on his inside game down low, and that is where he can help us the most. Before he was coming in at SF and trying to play the perimeter game, handling the ball too much and shooting from long range, turning the ball over and missing shots.

Recent games against guys like Dwight Howard and Gerald Wallace, I kept saying to myself I hope Dray is watching them. It appears he was.

Andray coming along throughout this season could be a huge factor for us. If he continues to improve he adds much needed size and athleticism. He helps relieve the importance of Darius Songaila's return this year. He helps keep the offensively challenged Michael Ruffin off the court. He limits the use of Jarvis Hayes off the bench at PF.

Once Etan returns and gives us the 1-2 punch again at center, it would be nice to see Dray settle in as Jamison's regular backup off the bench. Someone who can come in on the taller quicker PFs that give Antawn trouble. A guy who can give us a boost off the bench with energy, some dunks and boards. Give Antawn some rest here and there, and use Antawn more at the 3 also. And continue with spot minutes at center when we go small, where he's been playing well, rather than using either Ruffin or Jamison there.

Posted by: Darnell | January 5, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I'll admit I voted for Gil and Caron a few time for the all-star game but we should all stop. Give the boys a long weekend to rest and get Gilbert all fired up for the second half.

Just another way to look at a bascilly meanless game.

**ducks for cover**

Posted by: dc | January 5, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

A couple blogs ago DDUB brought up a GREAT comparison: Jarvis Hayes and Courtney Alexander. When Courtney was here, man he looked like he had tons of talent, he was athletic and had just a beautiful looking jumper where he got high off the ground with a great release and high arcing shot. What happened to him? Both guys have the gunner mentality and beautiful looking shots that miss too often. Props to DDUB for that one!

Here's another comparison. MJ/Pippen and Arenas/Caron.

I know they got a long way to go... but think back to when they were young and MJ emerged 1st and foremost as a flat out unstoppable offensive weapon. The league's top scorer, intense, determined and a workaholic. The combo of quickness and strength, and the assasin mentality of total attack on offense. Then the emergence of Pippen as the perfect complimetary player. A good and physical defender, a guy who could score, and just a solid all-around do alittle of everything player.

They haven't reached that level, but go back to when MJ and Pippen were in their 2nd year together. Arenas and Caron compliment each other in a similar way, one a guard the other a forward. IMO they have surpassed Shaq/DWade as the best 1-2 punch in the league.

Posted by: Darnell | January 5, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Regarding all the Hayes criticism, I've been critical of his shot selection this season -- it's been horrible -- and his +/- figure is one of the lowest on the team (in part, in his defense, because Jordan has used him a lot at PF). But a lot of posters here have dismissed him as a no talent who should be cut, benched, or even worse, compared to Courtney Alexander!
Hayes hurt his knee towards the end of the 05 season, and played only 21 games last season after reinjuring it. In essence, prior to this season he hadn't played for about 18 months. As fans, sometimes we forget that these guys aren't robots, and just because they are in uniform doesn't mean they are as good as new. Knee injuries take a while to get better (I can attest to that personally).
What has pleased me this season is that Hayes hasn't had a setback. What displeases me is that he hasn't been smarter in terms of shot selection, and seems to be allergic to passing the ball. The Wizards do need a scorer off the bench, so who knows, maybe Jordan has encouraged him to shoot. The fact that in our eyes he seems to play poorly but Jordan continues to give him minutes suggests that Jordan feels he is doing enough things right to warrant the minutes. Puzzling, sure, but there is something to that.
I remember enough about how he looked prior to this year to think that he will eventually become a good player in the league.

Posted by: Henry | January 5, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

A couple other comments (sorry, haven't posted for a while :)

I think AD has been playing less mainly because of the improved play of DeShawn more than anything. Before AD was automatic to be on the court in the 4th. But lately DeShawn has been in to help prevent a defensive breakdown late in the game, and because he's be consistantly hitting his shots. Hayes has gotten some run at SG, but mainly at the forward spots, and AD and Gil have played together. But more and more it seems AD is only coming in to spell Gil which isn't often, and Eddie hasn't used the small backcourt of Gil and AD together as much. And I don't think it has anything to do with AD not playing well, I think this has to do more with Eddie's increased trust in DeShawn.

Thank you Ray for putting that link to the Allstar vote... I use it everytime I see it, it reminds me to do it, and makes it easier linking straight to where you vote.

I hope Caron makes it... I think he has passed Pierce as one of the top SFs in east and is more deserving. Gil has to be the top candidate for MVP if the vote was now, and hopefully the momentum will just continue to swell throughout the season. What a way to show those US Team coaches they made a mistake by following it with an MVP season, wouldn't that be GREAT !!

Posted by: Darnell | January 5, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Well, I think at this point in the season just about everyone is better than the shaq D Wade combo... cause it isn't there.

I'm curious about this Miami squad, I think a lot of national reporters think that when Shaq gets healthy they are going to plow through the east, but I don't know. I think they have more issues than Shaq and D Wade injuries.

I do kinda hope they make the playoffs though, cause I want to sweep them.

IC seems to think Darius will play this season, keeps mentioning progress. I think it would be good even if he is really limited this year. going into the post season, and next year if he can even get a few minutes this season it will help him out. Curious if they will bring Pech over next year.

Posted by: greg | January 5, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Henry, I do agree with you... I'm not ready to give up on Jarvis. And he has been playing out of position at PF alot. And also I'm sure Eddie and his teammates encourage him to shoot and look to score. We all know bench scoring is seriously lacking for this team, and our hopes for that improving are pinned on Hayes. I too am encouraged just by the fact that he has remained healthy. He needs to move the ball and pull the trigger only when he has good open shots, and hopefully he'll start hitting them more consistantly and his confidence will improve. Ideally he'll be playing strictly at the 2 and 3 spots when/if Darius comes back and with Dray's continued improvement. But then you gotta figure Caron isn't going to be sitting too often. And also, I don't know how much longer you can give Hayes alot of pt if he's not producing before you gotta start giving more opportunity to Mason. But I still think Hayes can be a valuable part of this team. We definately need solid play and an offensive spark from the bench, especially on the 2nd games of back to backs, and on the occasion when the big 3's shots aren't falling.

Posted by: Darnell | January 5, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Greg, true. And what was that I saw about Posey and Antwan Walker being made inactive because of failure to meet conditioning requirements or something like that? That team has issues.

I'm more concerned with Cleveland and Chicago personally.

Ok, I'll shut up now. :)

Posted by: Darnell | January 5, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

The NBA All Star game is by far the best of all the pro sports exhibitions, but it is just that -- an exhibition. So while I hope Caron makes it, I think the much morre interesting topic as a Wiz fan is young Andray.

Firstly, kudos has to go to Ernie for picking Blatche in the second round in a year that the Wiz didnt have a first.

Secondly, which Blatche as young as he is, it's very tough to project what his ceiling will be, how his body will fill out etc. But what seems clear is that he will get better. You never had that sense with Kwame, it was just a hope.

If he can grow into what Donyell Marshall was in his prime (rebounder, shot-blocker, finisher around the basket, spot-up shooter) he'll be a hell of an asset alongside the Wiz's core.

I hope Eddie keeps getting him on the court.

Posted by: Ben | January 5, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse


As far as developing skills go, a Donyell Marshall in his prime type game would be pretty good for Blache. Although I always thought Marshall would have had a slightly more impressive career than he has had. Blache also has a thicker and taller build than Marshall and will continue to fill out as he grows into his body. In this way, his position will be much better for the post at the 4 and in a pinch, the 5.

Another thing that I've noticed w/ some of the big men that have that Adonis build, like Kwame, Okafor, and Alonzo, is that they're all very robotic and mechanical in their post moves. Must be all that tight muscle and thicker bone structure that makes it somewhat tougher to be very flexible and fluid w/ their movements. Those mechanical guys usually aren't very good handling the ball and don't put the ball on the floor very well. I'm not saying that I wouldn't die to have Okafor or a young Zo on the Wiz, but if they had more flexibility and less mechanical post moves they probably would be much better players. Guys like Blatche who are very flexible, hopefully will develop along the lines of the Stoudemires and Garnetts of the world. :)

Posted by: Going G.A.G.A. over Gilbert | January 5, 2007 4:13 PM | Report abuse

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