One of the popular topics during the post-game interview sessions focused on the night that Andray Blatche had against the Chicago Bulls. In many ways this was a night that Andray will want to quickly erase from his memory banks. But can he? Andray played a little over 36 minutes tonight but he finished with 7 points on 3-14 from the field, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 3 personal fouls and 4 turnovers.
Andray Blatche's night seemed to get off on the wrong foot from nearly the start of the game. With about 8:30 remaining in the 1st quarter Andray picked off a pass and had what looked to be an easy two. However as he attempted to score the ball slipped from his hand, easily rebounding to Carlos Boozer who was trailing the play. The play itself was embarrassing enough, however the Verizon Center fans immediately began booing Blatche. More interestingly they continued to boo him throughout much of the game.
Following the game Flip Saunders was asked if he thought the missed layup by Andray help contribute to Andray's atypical performance. Flip responded by saying:
"I hope not. I hope as a professional that you don't miss a layup a minute into the game, or two minutes, and your done for the next 46. But he struggled tonight there is no question."
Flip was also asked why he decided to leave him in since he was struggling so much. Flip's response:
"He is one of our main guys. His a young player, part of development is getting your butt kicked. Sometimes you can learn just as much from playing bad as when you play good. And I have confidence in him that no matter how bad he has played that down the stretch, I feel that he will be able to make a couple plays for us."
This should be a great sign to Andray that Flip has faith in him that he will pull through even when he is struggling. It would have been easy for Flip to pull him from the game, particularly now that he has two veteran Forwards who on a night like this could have easily picked up his minutes. Flip also indicated that it was not just Andray who struggled. He also pointed to Nick Young. He said, "It wasn't just Andray. Nick shot about four off-balance shots that were even off-balance for him."
The opponent also contributed to Andary's struggles. For many stretches of the game Andray was matched up against one of the most savvy vets in the league, Kurt Thomas. Flip talked about the frustration that the Wizards players had with some of Kurt Thomas' tactics (and the fact that he often got away with grabbing and holding his opponent). Flip complimented Thomas by saying, "Kurt Thomas had an unbelievable game for a guy who's like 50. No, he's 37 or 38 whatever he is. He really dictated how the game was played."
What is a little disconcerting is that Andray admits that the missed layup and the boo's from the fans did have an impact on this game:
It is always refreshing to hear a honest response to a series of questions like that. However, I hope that as Andray continues to grow as a player that he is able to develop thicker skin so that the fans are not able to so easily affect his psyche.
Lastly, I asked Kurt Thomas about any special tricks that he may have used to get under Andray's skin. Here was his response:
While this is one night that Andray will want to forget, the fact is that many lessons can be taken from this type of experience. Hopefully, Andray will learn a trick or two playing against a veteran like Kurt Thomas - a player who at this stage in his career has only a fraction of Andray's athletic ability - but who relies on experience, grit, savvy and a few tricks to be effective for his team. And while it is likely easier said then done, Andray has to develop thicker skin. While a bit surprising, Andray cannot let the fans boos affect his game. No one wants to hear their home crowd turn on them, but tuning them out and focusing on the task at-hand is the only solution to that problem.