Andray Blatche is threatening to become for 2012 what Erick Dampier was to very late 2010 free agency — a borderline irrelevant big man with a semi-famous name whose free agency draws undue attention because it occurs during the NBA’s dead time. The Heat eventually signed Dampier, who played 815 regular-season minutes for the eventual runners-up, didn’t take the floor in the postseason and then reportedly partied in Miami with his former Dallas teammates after the Mavs’ Game 6 clincher.
Miami is involved again this offseason, going head-to-head with the Nets to sign Blatche to a minimum salary deal that may end up as a fully non-guaranteed training camp invite. Twitter is already laughing at the Blatche Watch, and it doesn’t help that Blatche has made himself into something of an NBA punch line. His annual summertime “This is the year, I swear!” declarations are legendary blog post fodder. He made these hilariously optimistic inspirational T-shirts for his Washington teammates before last season. He sponsored and/or presented something called “Lapdance Tuesday.”
On a more serious note, Blatche came from a difficult family background in the Syracuse area and was shot in a car-jacking during the early part of his NBA career. As chronicled here, Blatche has admitted getting too caught up in the NBA “nightlife,” and you can guess what that entails. His off-court issues have been real — and damaging.
Things on the court haven’t been much better since his decent 2009-10 season, a campaign which inspired the Wizards to ink Blatche a cap-room contract extension hailed then as a creative means of locking up a versatile young big. He has battled both conditioning issues and nagging leg, foot and shoulder injuries, problems that can produce a hand-in-hand vicious cycle among less than diligent players. His effort level on both ends of the floor has shifted between “almost acceptable” and “totally embarrassing for everyone.” He he hoisted mid-range jumpers at near Nowitzkian rates over the last two seasons despite hitting less than a third of them — one of the worst accuracy rates for high-volume mid-range shooters. Blatche has never had the speed or body type to be a real defensive stopper, but he has too often been a stationary, reaching blob on that end, destructive to his team.