LAS VEGAS - The first quarter of the beginning of what seems like Andray Blatche's tenth Summer League appearance was the type of stretch that makes so many fans cringe. Three turnovers, many of them worthy of face palms. Several bad jumpers out of the flow of the offense. One particular stretch where he somehow threw the ball right to a Cavaliers player on the break.
It was enough to bring an entourage of people to talk to Blatche between the first and second quarter. After the rest of the club listened to Randy Wittman and the rest of the coaching staff, assistant coach Don Zierden, Dominic McGuire (not playing because of an NBA rule that you can only have four players from any team's team's roster last year playing at a time) and Nick Young all circled around Blatche to try to calm him down.
The talk worked. After going 1-3 with three turnovers in the first quarter, Blatche went 7-10 and scored 19 of his 21 points in the final three quarters to help lead the Wizards to a 96-93 win over the Cavaliers in their Summer League opener.
"I came out real hyper, real real hyper, and then [McGuire] was like, 'Man just calm down and let it come to you, can't nobody out here check you, just take your time,'" Blatche said. "And after that I just slowed down and things started working out for me."
Blatche said it was Gilbert Arenas' idea for him to come to Summer League, and not Flip Saunders' or anyone else from the coaching staff. But Blatche isn't at Summer League to start his offseason workout routine. He has been spending time on individual workouts since the end of the season, working particularly on his post moves and stamina.
When asked whether his offseason routine was different this year than in years past, Blatche said "Oh yeah, definitely." He went on to credit the level of commitment he's received from the new coaching staff.
The vibe I'm getting [from the organization gives] more confidence for us young players. "We have great coaches that are always boosting us up," he said. "Each one of the players has a personal relationship with Flip [Saunders]. He texts us, he gives us words of wisdom, he stays in your ear [and] he just gives you that little push you need. I feel that's key for us winning this season."
When asked about his relationship with former coach Eddie Jordan, Blatche said: "Eddie [Jordan] was a veteran coach. He was tough on young players, so I didn't really have a real strong relationship with Eddie."
Blatche's play was not lost on Antawn Jamison. While Jamison stopped short of declaring that Blatche has turned over a new leaf, he did tell me that he was encouraged by Blatche's development.
"Sometimes it takes guys longer than others, but it’s good that he’s starting to understand what you have to do to be successful," Jamison said.
It's far too early to declare Blatche a changed player, and we've heard this type of stuff from him before. Nevertheless, the fact that Blatche feels good about his relationship with his coaches is a major step forward for his developmet.
"This is my first time having a real good relationship with a coach in the NBA," he said.