The NBA Development League is the new home, for now at least, of rookie Washington Wizards forward Andray Blatche.
“The D-League will give Andray an outstanding opportunity to get considerable playing time in live-game competition,” Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld said.
Selected out of South Kent (Conn.) Prep with the 49th overall pick in this year’s draft, Blatche is the second Wizards player to be assigned to the D-League, joining Peter John Ramos on the Roanoke Dazzle.
Ramos, a 7-foot-3 second-year center, spent most of last season on Washington’s injured list. But this year the D-League serves as an incubator of young talent. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, teams can send players to the league and call them back as needed. So Ramos, rather than sitting the Wizards bench with a fraudulent injury, is playing and getting the chance to be transformed from a raw talent into potentially a key contributor.
Blatche, who missed all of the preseason after being shot in the chest during a botched carjacking, will get a similar opportunity.
“My goal has always been to play at the NBA level and I think this will be a good experience for me,” Blatche said. “More than anything, I want to play and I’m looking forward to the chance to show what I can do.”
In eight games with the Dazzle, six as a starter, Ramos is playing 25 minutes a game and averaging 11.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.25 blocks a game. He has recorded five double-doubles.
Blatche has been listed as active for four of the Wizards’ 19 games. He has played in four games, averaging 2.8 points.
Last season, before the NBA did away with the injured list, Ramos played a total of 20 minutes.
The 6-11 Blatche is considered to be ahead of Ramos at this point. However, with the recent return of Michael Ruffin from knee tendinitis, there is no playing time available to Blatche.
The league permits a player to be sent to the D-League twice during the season, and the player can remain there as long as the team desires.
Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said the new rules allow for a player to make rapid gains while playing basketball rather than sitting and growing disillusioned with the lack of playing time. Jordan has discussed the possibility of such an assignment for another rookie, guard Donnell Taylor.
“I talked to them and I’ve told them that the plan is mapped out for you,” Jordan said. “But the plan can be altered if there are injuries and we need their bodies. I feel that if they are not making progress here, and that they are getting frustrated with the lack of playing time or they aren’t getting enough reps in practice, then we may consider sending them down.
“If they show huge growth, then they could get called back up real soon. Right now we think they need some experience and some playing time.”
Notes — The Wizards will travel to Los Angeles today and, beginning with tomorrow’s game against the Lakers, play five games in eight nights against teams from the Western Conference. Jordan said if the team had to play tonight Gilbert Arenas, who missed the Wizards victory over New Jersey on Tuesday with a lower back injury, would play. … At least three league sources denied there has been any talk between the Wizards and the New York Knicks concerning a trade that would involve Washington’s Jared Jeffries and Chucky Atkins for Quentin Richardson. A swingman in his sixth year, Richardson, who signed a six-year, $45million contract in 2004, is averaging a career-low 6.8 points a game.