EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Backup center Andray Blatche is ready to make the most of his second chance in the NBA.
“Last season with the Wizards was definitely a wakeup call to show me that you’re right, this is the job of my life, the job I love doing can be taken from me,” Blatche, who has a history of on-the-court and off-the-court mistakes, said Tuesday. “So to see what happened to me, I don’t want that to happen again.”
So what exactly happened?
“I just wasn’t in good shape, did a lot of nonsense and it just never stopped,” said Blatche, who played in just 26 games, then found himself out of a job after he was amnestied by Washington in the summer.
“This was a very difficult summer for me, but to keep my mind off things, I just worked extra hard and worked as hard as I can,” Blatche said.
Realizing he had to get his act together, the seven-year veteran began working out with former NBA coach/mentor John Lucas in Houston. During that time, Blatche met with Nets coach Avery Johnson, who recommended to GM Billy King that he sign him. And King did just that, inking Blatche to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract that could be worth the veteran’s minimum if he makes the team.
“It feels great,” Blatche said after participating in his first practice of training camp. “I feel blessed to be on the court, practicing and just competing. It’s been a long summer. It’s been a long time for me because I was sitting down last year after a certain amount of games, so to be back on the court with my teammates and going hard, it’s a good feeling.”
Blatche said it was Lucas who swayed him to picking the Nets.
“(John) basically told me Avery is a good coach, he understands your style of play and they can use you up there with the Brooklyn Nets,” Blatche said. “My thing is, it’s all about opportunity, and there’s an opportunity here, that’s why I decided to come here.
“I just want to make sure I take full advantage of the opportunity they’re going to have for me. Just work hard, and everything that’s given to me, just take it and don’t leave nothing back. Every chance I get, I’m going 100 percent with it.”
Johnson has been extremely pleased with what he’s seen from Blatche so far -- and the Nets coach isn’t concerned about his troubled past.
“I told him this when we met for the first time, it’s a clean slate, and he has pretty much a program that I have him on specifically -- physically there’s some things, mentally, that we’ve talked about. Basketball on the court, off the court, he has his program -- keep me happy and he’ll be fine,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Blatche is in great physical condition, about five to seven pounds off where the Nets want him to be. He was at 285 pounds, but he’s gotten all the way down to 265 pounds.
Once a starter in the league, Blatche finds himself behind Brook Lopez on the depth chart. Still, he’s just glad to have another opportunity to prove he’s changed for the better.
“I just to be on a winning team,” Blatche said. “I don’t have any visions of my role, I just want to go out there and compete.
“Bottom line: If they want me to play any position, that’s what I’m gonna do, and I’m gonna do so to the best of my ability.”