The Brooklyn Nets have dropped four games in a row. Starting center Brook Lopez missed Brooklyn’s last five contests with a right foot injury that isn’t healing as quickly as expected. Into this 5-spot void coach Avery Johnson has inserted 6’11” Andray Blatche.
26-year-old Blatche spent the first seven seasons of his eight-year NBA career with the underperforming Washington Wizards. Blatche had some success, but was criticized for having a poor work ethic. He also got into some off-court trouble, which diminished his popularity with DC fans who often greeted Blatche with boos and taunts.
This past summer, the Wiz waived Blatche with the Amnesty Clause, and he hooked on with the Nets under a one year, non-guaranteed deal. The slimmed-down Blatche appeared motivated to make the most of his opportunity to start with a clean slate in Brooklyn. Coach Johnson quickly named Blatche his backup center and publicly stated that he has confidence in Blatche at the 5 and at the 4.
In the Nets’ 15 games in November, Blatche averaged 9.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg and .5 spg in 17.9 mpg, shooting .448 from the field. So far in December he’s putting up 18 ppg, 10 rpg and 2.5 spg in 29 mpg, shooting .553 from the field. On December 7th, Blatche scored 22 points with 15 boards and 4 steals in 35 minutes of court time in a home loss to the Warriors.
Lopez missed all but 5 of the 66 games last season with a broken right foot, so the Nets will definitely play it safe while he recovers from his most recent injury. Renewed by the transition to a franchise on the rise and loaded with talent, look for Blatche’s comfort level, minutes and production to increase while he fills in for Lopez.