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News » Change good for Blatche

Change good for Blatche

Change good for Blatche
Throughout the Washington Wizards' preseason, there was a constant call for Andray Blatche to step up. But during the team's 1-10 start, Blatche showed the same occasional flashes, frequent inconsistency and questionable effort on both ends of the court.

Blatche's teammates and then coach Eddie Jordan continued to ask for more, both to Blatche's face and through the media. Jordan instituted a requirement that Blatche report to the arena early before each practice for mandatory weightlifting and training to improve his poor conditioning.

But the struggles continued as the 6-foot-11 forward/center averaged just 6.7 points and 3.5 rebounds. In the five games since Jordan's firing, however, the Wizards have seen a change in Blatche. His teammates said he appears more focused and driven in practice, and he has become more vocal in support of his teammates even when on the bench. His statistics indicate improvement as well.

In the first game under Tapscott, Blatche erupted for 25 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks and five assists. The last five games, Blatche is averaging 10.8 points and 5.0 rebounds in 19.0 minutes.

"I think he's been giving us very good effort," Tapscott said. "There are some nights when he has his game going, where his shots are falling and he's getting good things off his drives. There are other nights when he can't get into a rhythm because the other forwards are going. But he's been rebounding the ball and playing some defense."

Blatche said the reason for the change is simple.

"It's just having a coach that gives me confidence, builds me up, and he gets me going," Blatche said. "He makes the game exciting for me, and I just give the effort. He has my back within practice and the game, and I just feel like it's my right to give him the effort."

Blatche still has struggled to avoid foul trouble. Called on to defend Orlando's Dwight Howard last week, Blatche fouled out after playing just 12 minutes and was limited to five points and five rebounds.

"It really limits his presence on the floor when he picks up fouls," Tapscott said. "I tell him I need him in there, that versatility he brings to the game. We can play him at the four and the five, and in a pinch we can squeeze some small forward out of him. His versatility is important for us."

Developing better habits - mainly not reaching and playing more with his feet, according to Tapscott - should cure that problem.

Therapeutic practice

Following another blown lead in the fourth quarter Wednesday against visiting Portland, the Wizards returned to practice both to correct some errors and reinforce some positives Tapscott saw the night before.

Running a short practice that mainly featured strategic walkthroughs, the Wizards worked on defensive rotations to cut down on late drives to the basket and touched up pick-and-roll packages.

"We showed both good and mistakes," Tapscott said. "There were a lot of good things out there. It just takes one play early in the game to get us to a point where you're not down six, you're up six. That's all it takes. I said, 'Look, we ended up losing by six last night. If we make one play in the first quarter, one more play in the second quarter, one more play in the third quarter and one more play in the fourth quarter, we win.' Just one play each quarter means a two-point win instead of a six-point loss. So that's attention to detail."

To end things on a positive note, Tapscott gave his team a treat. Serenaded by the musical library from Gilbert Arenas' iPod, ranging from old-school West Coast rap to Kanye West's newest work, the Wizards went through the team's cool-down/stretching portion of practice.

"I said, 'Let's have a little music with your stretch, and I'll let you pick the music,' " Tapscott said. "I let them pick the music because if I played my music, they would've been running out of here screaming. But I wanted to get the mood back up. We're done with the game [Wednesday] night, reviewed it, reviewed our mistakes, so let's get ready for the Lakers and play a great game."

Los Angeles Lakers at Washington Wizards

When: 7 p.m.

TV/radio: CSN, ESPN 980

Probable starters: Lakers - F Vladimir Radmanovic, F Pau Gasol, C Andrew Bynum, G Kobe Bryant, G Derek Fisher. Wizards - F Caron Butler, F Antawn Jamison, C JaVale McGee, G DeShawn Stevenson, G Dee Brown.

Injuries: Lakers - none reported. Wizards - Out: C Brendan Haywood (wrist), G Gilbert Arenas (knee).

Notes: The Wizards have their work cut out for them as they take on the Lakers, who sport a Western Conference-best 15-2 record. Reigning NBA MVP Kobe Bryant, who is averaging 25.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists this season, leads Los Angeles. Holding Bryant in check is virtually impossible, the Wizards confess. But their goal is to at least make him uncomfortable in hopes of slowing him down. "He's going to amass numbers. He always has," coach Ed Tapscott said. "Now, can we make him work hard and can we do so less efficiently than he normally does - extra shots, extra plays to get where he wants. That's what you want to try to do, so in essence you have a greater sense of control. The last thing you want is for him to play with a sense of ease and he's still torching you."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: December 5, 2008


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