WASHINGTON, D.C. - It was a symbolic gesture, one that mimics what the Washington Wizards have been doing all month. Two players were called specifically to the interview room to do their media day session instead of doing it outside the practice court.
One was John Wall. The other was Andray Blatche.
All summer, fall and winter, the Wizards have propped Blatche up as a team leader. All summer, fall and winter, they've professed to him and publicly that they expect big things from him. That trend followed on Thursday. On the day when the entire team was showcased, Blatche was placed on a level matched only by the team's franchise player.
With great confidence comes great expectations, and Blatche knows that. The Wizards' patience with him can't last forever.
"I'm just grateful for still being here, and I'm thankful for having this organization, this owner and the coaches for never turning their back on me. They always are having my back and have kept pushing me. They could have easily given up on me a long time ago, and they haven't," Blatche said. "Now, I see that and I feel like I owe them the best out of me. That's what I'm going to try to do."
Ted Leonsis didn't exactly disagree.
"He understands that the fanbase, the media are all looking to take cues on can his focus and dedication match his natural skills," Leonsis said. "I and the front office expect really, really big things from him. He's a young man, and I think he understands that this is a defining moment for him."
Blatche has had plenty of moments that many felt would be defining for him. Last year was supposed to be defining, but Blatche really struggled out of the gate after an offseason foot injury and faced more criticism than ever. Even to this day, that criticism stings.
"I can understand [the critics]," he said. "But they got to understand, at the same time, that I came into last season without practicing or playing the whole summer. My first time touching a ball was in training camp. That's tough."
"As far as critics, they should be happy. I kept them in a job for a while. I kept them working. They had something to talk about," he joked later.
But even right then, he went back to pointing the finger at himself.
"But on a serious note, I'm really feel I owe this organization, this community and the whole D.C. a lot more than I've given in the past," he said. "I've worked hard this offseason and hopefully everything I worked hard for this summer will show this season for me."
So we know that Blatche knows the score. Is there reason for concern that this year will go like all other years? Of course. For my money, there was a lot of "hoping" coming from Blatche's mouth. When I asked him if his lingering shoulder injury, which he said is at "85 percent" right now, is going to affect him this season, Blatche said he "hopes not" and is "praying for a healthy season." There's still a lot of psychological dread on his part that something will go wrong and all this talk will end up being cheap. You often worry if part of his ongoing struggles stem from assuming things will go wrong instead of being confident that they will go right.
We'll see if Blatche can get over that psychological barrier this year. Otherwise, a line like this will be as hollow as all the lines he's uttered before Thursday.
"I told my teammates, I'm willing to give y'all 100 percent out of me every game," Blatche said. "I'm willing to die for this."
Those are strong words, but as Blatche surely knows, talk is cheap.