The Brooklyn Nets travel to Washington to play the 4-26 Washington Wizards tonight, a game that holds a unique meaning to one Nets player: backup center Andray Blatche.
As well-documented by this here blogger who, uh, was not particularly happy with the signing at the time, Blatche left the Wizards in disgrace, getting the amnesty axe this summer after a series of on- and off-court mishaps and miscommunications. The Wizards say Blatche was a headcase, Blatche says the Wizards never gave him the support he needed.
None of that matters now, as Blatche has turned around his career in Brooklyn; he's more than doubled his PER over last season, averaging 19.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per 36 minutes and shooting a career-high 48.6% from the floor.
It's not fool's gold, either: he's also hitting career highs in effective field goal percentage (which accounts for the value of three-pointers), true shooting percentage (which accounts for free throws), total rebounding rate, and steal percentage. Blatche simply looks like a different player in Brooklyn; though he's still prone to many of the same mistakes, his overall impact is night and day from his tenure in Washington.
Blatche's turnaround caught the eye of Grantland's Zach Lowe, who gave Blatche his "Not-Quite-Midseason-Award" vote for Most Improved Player:
Blatche probably isn’t going to win this award, and it feels icky to give it to a guy thriving primarily because he’s finally trying hard and keeping his nose clean off the court. But anytime someone goes from nearly falling out of the league to bordering the top 10 in PER, he deserves some temporary recognition.
The Nets are overextending Blatche by running the offense through him in the post at times within bench units; his shooting percentage is already starting to fall as some of those face-up mid-rangers clank, and the Nets have been a two-way disaster anytime Blatche is on the floor without Reggie Evans next to him, per NBA.com’s stats database. He’s still a subpar defender, prone to confusion, botched rotations, and faulty mechanics. He gets out of control under the rim and along the baseline when he tries to do too much with the ball, and more of those possessions are going to result in turnovers as defenses recalibrate.
But he’s killing it on the offensive glass, passing well, racking up steals, and soaking up possessions.