It's not just that Blatche decided he'd rather not play than listen to his coach. Sad as it might seem, things like that happen in this league. It's not just that Blatche himself has relapsed after showing some real improvement in his demeanor this season. It's not just that the Wizards probably would have won this game with him.
No, the saddest part about this is that the deck was stacked in Blatche's favor for the first time in his career. I always had the feeling that Blatche is not one that's particularly good at dealing with personal failure. He's played well when people had confidence and trust in him, something that frankly was lacking for so long. He was stuck behind Antawn Jamison, the face of the franchise within the organization (i.e. the guy everyone respected most), and had to deal with a coach that changed his role, challenged him in a passive-aggressive way and made it clear he didn't trust him one bit.
That is to say that while some of the stuff we saw from Blatche in the first few years of his career was troubling, there were always mitigating factors that could be fixed. A new coach. A new expectation for him. New responsibility. More confidence in his abilities. Ideally, your players shouldn't be difficult, but some that are still go on to be model citizens, team leaders and outstanding players in the right situation. For Blatche, it seemed the right situation was one where he would be thrown into the fire, trusted to get it done and given all the resources he needs to make it happen. In other words, this situation.
But if last night's incident is any indication, Blatche can't handle success either. He had it all (well, except the wins). He had a coach that had confidence in him, a staff that supported, a featured role and, hell, a leadership position on a team of young players. He was in a situation where he couldn't be blamed too much for taking bad shots, as Saunders said last night. And yet, he couldn't handle it.
Clearly, this reaction by Dray was brought on by several incidents, so this is not to say that Flip Saunders deserves no blame for letting the situation get to this point, if only because anytime a player reacts in this manner, it reflects on you in some way. But this isn't about Flip Saunders right now. This is about Andray Blatche, a player who just openly disrespected a coach he once respected. A player who showed he's still not sure how to handle 16 games of success. The eulogy on how Flip Saunders has lost the team will have to wait.
Just think about some of the things Blatche has said about Flip Saunders this season.
"I like Flip a lot ... he makes you want to stay in the gym, always telling you when you're getting better, or what's not good. So that kinda kept me in the gym a lot more.
We have great coaches that are always boosting us up. 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."
"This is my first time having a real good relationship with a coach in the NBA."
"Flip is a great coach and we have a great coaching staff. They are bringing the play out of all the guys on the team, making us work hard and play hard. We had many conversations, it was pretty much that he was going to bring the best player out of me that he can, and it's showing. He stuck with me, doing extra drills after practice, all the hard work is paying off that he did with me."
And then last night happened. A terrible, terrible season just got a whole lot worse.