- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 11, 2011

Andray Blatche stood in the hallway outside Washington’s practice court after finishing a heated scrimmage and running drills that marked the end of Day 2 of training camp and said what Wizards fans have been waiting to hear.

“It’s time to win, its time to be serious,” Blatche said. “We had a goofy team the past couple of years, everybody knows that. Playing around got us sent home early. We were too goofy and too soft last year.

“We don’t have time to be joking around. We tried that the last couple of years, and look where it got us.”

It’s not the first time Blatche has addressed the Wizards’ maturity issues, including his own, but he’s never been this blunt about it. Grow up or go home is Blatche’s message, and the organization and fan base are hoping that this time, Blatche stands by his words.

“We let him know that for us, leadership for him was important, and I think he’s taken it to heart and he’s tried to become a leader,” coach Flip Saunders said. “We wanted him to think about being a leader over the course of the summer, and he came back with that in mind. Now that he’s healthy, he’s able to lead more. He has matured some.

“I know people hear that a lot, but the judge of his maturity, as is everybody’s, is that when things go bad, you’ve got to fight through some adversity. He hasn’t talked about individual goals, he’s talked about team goals, and I think that’s the first step.”

The leadership theme continues to echo throughout the team, with the addition of Roger Mason Jr. and Ronny Turiaf, two veterans who will be counted on to bring poise and stability to one of the youngest teams in the league.

Mason, a former Wizard and D.C. native, says he was brought in to be a leader, but knows others must also assume that role.

“We’ve got two young leaders in Andray and John Wall,” Mason said. “If those guys really develop, we can have a good year. The first time I was here, I was with Andray when he was a young guy. Obviously, he’s made some mistakes, but I’m proud of how he’s developing.”

Wall has embraced his leadership role from the beginning, which he knew was expected of him as a No. 1 draft pick, and as a player who plays the point guard position.

“It’s my job to be a leader on and off the court,” Wall said after the first day of training camp.

Near the end of the opening session on Day 1, Saunders ran the first set of drills. He then instructed Wall to run the second set, and Blatche the final set.

“[Blatche] and John Wall, those two guys have to mature this year. I don’t want to jinx it, but the Andray Blatche I see right now is more mature,” Mason said. “He understands his responsibility, and he’s embracing it. That’s the difference this year. We’re only going to go as far as Andray takes us.”