As good as the Wizards have been recently, they've succeeded in spite of getting next to nothing from their bench. Part of that is injuries; the losses of Darius Songaila and Etan Thomas have decimated the frontcourt. Part of that is a lack of talent; there's a real dropoff in talent once you get past Antonio Daniels and (shockingly) Jarvis Hayes.
But many of the bench problems are tied back to coach Eddie Jordan's strange rotation. Jordan's a fantastic offensive mind, but he tends to have two major faults with his bench. First, he rides his starters too heavily, as the Big 3 are each averaging over 39 minutes a game. There's a dropoff when any of them is off the court, but that's to be expected with players as good as Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison. A bigger fault, however, is Jordan's strange tendency to play some of the guys deeper on the bench heavily in some games, but then barely play them in others. One example is Daniels, who played only 9 minutes in Wednesday's game against the Bucks, but played 22 the next game against the Clippers. Donnell Taylor, who had been the last guy off the bench throughout the year, saw action in crunch time yesterday against the Raptors. But nobody has been affected by Jordan's mystifying rotations than one Andray Blatche.
Recently, it appeared that Blatche was starting to turn a corner in his development. He played key minutes in the Wizards' 114-107 win at Charlotte, and then had a quasi-breakout in the 119-102 loss to Milwaukee, with 9 points and 8 rebounds. In one three-minute stretch in the second quarter, Blatche got two offensive rebounds, scored a layup and a putback, and drained a three-pointer. Then, in the rematch last Wednesday, Blatche played 20 minutes and blocked two key fourth quarter shots to aid a fantastic defensive effort. With those performances, Blatche is now a regular off the bench, right?
Well, apparenly not. Blatche played only 6 minutes against the Clippers, a team where his quickness up front could have been an asset. Then, against a lengthy Toronto frontcourt that was giving the Wizards all sorts of problems, Blatche played only 3 minutes. Jordan decided instead to play Calvin Booth and Jarvis Hayes up front, and watched as Chris Bosh tore up with Wizards defense.
The logic simply makes no sense to me. Blatche has three of his best games of his career in the last four contests, and he's rewarded with 9 minutes in the next 2 games? I don't get it. Making matters worse is that I don't see any legitimate alternative to Blatche at the backup power forward spot. Eddie Jordan has been playing Jarvis Hayes at that spot, but unless the Wizards desperately need scoring, I can't see how Jordan can honestly believe that Hayes is a better option. The last thing the Wizards need is another shoot-first scorer off the bench, and while Hayes is a decent backup at the 3 spot, he's not a power forward. Blatche gives the Wizards a spark that hustles on the glass and can give you one of those "wow" plays, like the coast-to-coast layup he had against the Magic. In short, he's the perfect backup power forward.
Blatche's presence should also mean more rest for Antawn Jamison, but it doesn't. Jamison is an essential player for the Wizards offense, but he gives up nearly as many points as he scores on the other end (which might explain his so-so Roland Rating). With that in mind, Jamison should be playing fewer than 39 minutes a game, and Blatche should be picking up whatever minutes Jamison doesn't get. It seems like the perfect solution. Jamison gets more rest to stay fresher, and Blatche gets consistent game experience in key moments. Instead, Jamison rotates between the 4 and the 5, and Jarvis Hayes plays the remaining minutes. Again, tell me how this makes sense?
Blatche is young and inconsistent. I understand that. But how is he supposed to develop if he's riding the pine? In the middle of the season, the wins and losses aren't as important as developing the team for down the road. The Wizards are going to need Blatche later this season, and they're definitely going to need him to be a key player down the road. If he's never playing, how can he possibly live up to the expectations the organization has for him?
So Eddie, please heed this message. Free Andray Blatche!