- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2011

At times, Wizards forward Andray Blatche can be a maddeningly inconsistent player who makes head-slapping on-court mistakes.

Other times, he seems to be channeling Moses Malone with an on-court presence that defines effort and energy, and shows off monster prowess as a rebounder.

The tale of two Andrays has been noticed by coach Flip Saunders.

“Dray’s caught a lot of criticism from people that he doesn’t play hard,” Saunders said. “But since he’s come back [from a shoulder injury], he’s worked as hard and done more fundamental things these last few games than he has since he’s been here.”

Blatche, who turns 25 in August, said he realized while sitting out 10 games with the shoulder injury that he couldn’t take playing time for granted.

Since his return, he has put up some pretty eye-catching numbers:

•Against the Miami Heat on March 30, had 15 points and 8 rebounds.

•Against the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 1, tied his career high with 36 points and pulled down a franchise-record 16 offensive rebounds (19 total).

•Against the Charlotte Bobcats on April 3, had 25 points and 17 rebounds.

•Against the Detroit Pistons on April 5, had 26 points and 10 rebounds.

“He’s had great energy. It’s not a coincidence that he sat out a lot of games and got his legs back under him,” Saunders said. “That’s something we’re going to talk to him about - trying to find a way to lose some weight for the beginning of next year, come in here 10 pounds lighter. It’s like taking a weighted vest off.”

Saunders contrasted this Blatche with the one he saw on the court this time last season.

“Last year, he might have gotten a little frustrated because he wasn’t getting the ball,” Saunders said. “Now, he’s a lot more patient.”

Blatche appears comfortable with his role, but seems to understand that the leadership of this team comes from the backcourt, and he admits that he feels no pressure to be a leader himself.

“We have a great group of young guys,” he said. “We all have a certain role we’re going to pitch in and play. Guys are doing a great job of doing what they’re supposed to do.

“Guys are not going out of character and we’re just sticking to the principles that the coach has put in play for us.”

Blatche expects defenders to notice the improvements in his game.

“It’s probably going to be a little bit tougher. Guys are probably going to key on me. But I’m still going to attack the board and try to do the things I did tonight,” Blatche said after the game against the Cavaliers. “When I came back, I just came with a lot of energy. I’m happy to be playing again.”

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