Washington Wizards Use Amnesty Clause on Andray Blatche – A Pivotal Play Toward a Winning Culture
Sometimes Pivotal Plays are about making tough decisions to do what’s right for the betterment of an organization. Washington Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld, who decided on Tuesday afternoon to use the NBA’s amnesty clause on long-time headache Andray Blatche, turned in this week’s pivotal play.
How does the amnesty provision work? The Wizards rid themselves of Blatche’s services moving forward. While they still owe him $7.2 million for the upcoming season and $23 million over the remaining three years on the contract of which they just got out – that money comes off the team’s books and no longer counts against the teams salary cap, giving them room to build.
A Wizard throughout his entire seven-year career, Blatche was drafted with the 49th pick back in 2005. He was considered a foundational piece and a building block of the future as recently as September 2010, when the Wizards re-structured his contract to add three years to a deal that was going to pay him $35 million.
Freeing up money to be re-allocated elsewhere in the coming three seasons isn’t why using the amnesty clause on Blatche was a pivotal and necessary decision. Grunfeld and team-owner Ted Leonsis tried to support and mentor the supremely athletic 6-foot, 11-inch big man with dribbling and shooting skills. After a series of missteps in his career, the breaking point for the Wizards came last season when head coach Randy Wittman shut the 26 year-old down because his conditioning wasn’t satisfactory. In his time in Washington, Blatche was a constant contributor to the team’s losing culture.
With the team trading JaVale McGee and Nick Young last season, Blatche was the last remaining thread from one of the most frustrating stretches in Wizards history. Waiving him with the amnesty provision on Tuesday was pertinent for a Wizards team that wants to stress hard work and professionalism.
Before the Wizards’ first game last season, Blatche addressed Washington’s home crowd from the court with a microphone, announcing himself as the team’s captain. After the game – a loss – just hours after he’d given a speech to the fans about why things would be different in 2011-2012, Blatche voiced his frustration with teammates for not passing him the ball in the interior nearly enough.
An incessant gift to the creators of SportsCenter’s “Not Top-10” list and a gem for the folks who assemble blooper montages, Blatche is a good guy who was raised in a culture where being a class-clown was tolerated.
I got to know Blatche well while covering the Wizards for a season, and there wasn’t a player on the team I enjoyed conversing with more than the jovial forward. But Grunfeld’s decision to amnesty him should help the Wizards continue to change their culture for the better – a Pivotal Play toward winning ways.