“I’m going to do exactly what my coach asks of me.” Ironic, coming from the player who — depending on who you trust — either refused to reenter a game a month or so ago or merely blew off his entire coaching staff, then publicly called Saunders a liar following Saunders’s reaction to his insubordination. But Blatche and Saunders have apparently patched things up (it didn’t take long — a game after Blatche called Saunders a liar, he inexplicably started), and now Blatche claims to be taking his coach’s advice seriously. Tonight, following that advice means staying away from confrontations with Kevin Garnett, who got into a “woofing” match with Blatche the last time the two teams played.
That night, the Wizards forked over a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead by — in Saunders’ words — pissing down their legs during the final six minutes. Blatche, who had played phenomenally for most of the game, was rattled by Garnett’s taunting techniques, losing his poise as Garnett barked and hollered at him. At one point, said Blatche, Garnett was so close to Blatche’s face that his lips made contact with Blatche’s cheek. It was a nice, loving smooch, I’m sure, but Blatche didn’t respond well. Like the rest of his teammates, he collapsed down the stretch as the C’s seized control.
After the game, Saunders blamed his team’s youth and inexperience for the late-game meltdown. “We choked … We got young guys, they don’t know what it’s like to be in a situation. We start talking to Garnett, start talking trash and everything else. Got Garnett and those guys juiced up and we just pissed down our leg the last six minutes.
“You have a veteran team that knows how to close out games, against a young team that hasn’t been there and instead of just letting a sleeping dog lie we juiced up their energies. We had plays coming off timeouts and we had guys going to the wrong side of the floor, we were so discombobulated.”
Specifically, Saunders assigned blame to Blatche, the 6’11″ power forward who has raised his level of play drastically since Washington’s former go-to-guys Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison were traded away. “Dray had terrible decisions,” Saunders said. “Dray is woofing the whole time to Kevin Garnett. You can’t do those things. It’s a learning process. You don’t take a guy who’s been defensive player of the year three times, probably the best power forward, and all of a sudden get that guy juiced up to play against you. You got no chance.”
So tonight, Blatche has been given the muzzle. Don’t wake a sleeping giant, seems to be Saunders’ message. If the Celtics are going to snooze through another game, he seems to be saying, let them. Don’t get their juices flowing with a string of trash talk, if they insist on acting the part of zombies. Don’t make the same mistake we made last time.
“What happened last time, happened last time,” Blatche said. Yup, it did. the Celtics tried to give Washington a free “W,” but Blatche and co. finished the game with too much talking and not enough playing. The Celtics swept in and stole a game the Wizards had otherwise controlled.
Tonight, the Celtics can only hope for a more complete game than last time the Wiz came to town. They emerged with a win, but the dramatic comeback should have been unnecessary. The C’s should beat the Wizards handily, regardless of Flip Saunders’ reign of silence, and it would be nice if they’d play a little defense while doing it.
They just won’t be able to rely on Andray Blatche and his talkative teammates for a kick in the ass. “[The trash talk is] old. That’s in the past,” Blatche said. “I’m going to do my job with a smile on my face.”
Well, that is, unless the Celtics’ play wipes that smile right off.