The opinions on Andray Blatche within the Wizards fanbase are as varied and inconsistent as Andray's on-court production. Some see a 22 year old who is that close to having a breakout season and just needs to be given a little more time to realize the potential that we've all seen glimpses of at different point in his career. Others see a player coming off his 4th NBA season who has been given too many chances to put all of his gifts together.
No matter where you stand on the Andray Blatche debate, everyone can agree that the only person whose opinion truly matters in the situation is Ernie Grunfeld's. Grunfeld traded away his main competition for playing time, Darius Songaila, this week and didn't bring in another player to challenge him in the front court rotation. At least not yet. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't still have his reservations when it comes to Andray.
In all of the draft hoopla, this quote from Ernie to (the much more optimistic as of late) Tom Knott regarding Andray deserves some extra attention:
Grunfeld remains ever hopeful with Blatche, a 6-foot-11 talent with a history of shrinking from his duties. That has been chalked up to his immaturity, a condition Brendan Haywood eventually overcame.
"We like Andray," Grunfeld said. "I don't expect him to have a great game every game. That is what you expect from the great players in this league. I knew Patrick Ewing was going to be great 76 games a year. Good players in this league might be great in two out of four games. With Andray and with his ability to shoot and handle the ball... is he someone who can get 12 to 14 points, eight to 10 rebounds a game? But I agree. The jury is still out on Andray. It's up to him."
It's not exactly the most ringing endorsement ever given, but clearly Ernie still believes in Andray. If it wasn't the case, he would have either packaged him in the Minnesota deal or made a more immediate move to find someone who can fill in when Andray struggles. Barring an unexpected trade, he's showing enough trust in Blatche to make him a primary backup in the 2009-10 season, a role that he's never been fully entrusted with before now. Sure, there have been times when he's been called to do that and more in the last two seasons, but only when injuries necessitated such action. This is the first time that he's been given a vote of confidence before the season began. If he isn't careful, it might be his only chance.
As we all know, with great trust comes great responsibility. In the past, Andray could have made the case that he deserved more minutes than he received. With Songaila out of the way, there are no more excuses. The pressue is now on Andray's shoulders to make the most of this chance to prove to the judge and the jury what he can be.