Cold reception expected for Blatche's return

Cold reception expected for Blatche's return
January 3, 2013, 6:45 pm
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You know how when the uninitiated fan comes to a game and asks why the home crowd appears to be booing one of their own and the response is, "no, they're not saying BOOOO, they're saying _____."

There will be no confusion Friday night as to what the Verizon Center patrons are uttering when ex-Wizard Andray Blatche takes to the court against his former team as a member of the Brooklyn Nets.

"Probably a lot of boos," Trevor Booker wisely speculated about the reception his teammate for two seasons will receive. "I heard they got extra security over on his bench, just in case somebody wants to throw stuff. So, I don’t know how true that is."

No aspersions cast on the Wizards fans, but considering the torrent of bitterness directed at Blatche during parts of his seven-year run in Washington, extra security might not be a bad call for his first trip back to Washington.

"I hope he gets out alive," said a smiling Booker after Thursday's practice.

Blatche's often-tumultuous run ended officially on July 17 when the Wizards invoked the NBA's amnesty clause, which removed the talented but often frustrating player from the roster. Washington remained on the hook for all that remained on his contract - $23 million.

The reality is Blatche was done in Washington back in March when the team shut him down for lack of conditioning. Many incidents, both on and off the court, came before that and drew the ire from Wizards nation. Based on the recent rehashing reaction on Twitter and radio, the locals have not forgotten.

"I wish him nothing but the best. I think the time was right for everybody involved to go in a different direction," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "It wasn't anything more than that."

The 6-foot-11 forward subsequently dropped some weight, signed with the Nets this off-season and become a viable scoring threat off the bench. Serving as the Nets (17-15) primary reserve big man during all 32 of their games, Blatche is averaging 10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 20 minutes per contest.

"You know again we've talked about opportunities and taking advantage of situations," said Wittman, who coached Blatche last season and as an assistant under former head coach Flip Saunders. That's what he's done coming off the bench there for [Nets center Brook] Lopez. Comfortable doing that, playing 18-20 minutes behind him. He's playing well, what I've seen of him. I will obviously take a more extensive look tonight (on film). From what I've seen, he's played well."

Recently Blatche's numbers have dropped a tick, but neither that nor what he's done for the Nets this season will be the primary focus of those in the stands.

Last season, whether during pregame introductions, coming off the bench or seemingly any time Blatche touched the ball, the fans showed their loud displeasure.

"He was out on the court, so we had to pass him the ball," Booker said. "It was tough. It was definitely tough for us and him."

This season has obviously been tough on the 4-26 Wizards so any well wishing can only go so far.

"I like Dray. I hope the best for him," Wittman said, "except tomorrow night."

As for whether he expects booing heaped in Blatche's direction Friday night, Wittman said, "I don't know. I'm not here to speculate on those kinds of things. We'll find that out."

Coach, we already know.