Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Washington Wizards finished off their offseason priorities by re-signing Andray Blatche yesterday to a five-year, $15 million deal, according to a source close to the negotiations.

The Wizards addressed their other offseason priority earlier this summer, when they re-signed guard DeShawn Stevenson.

“Andray is a very versatile young player with a lot of upside,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. “I see him being a rotation player and maybe down the road a starter.”

It has been a busy week for the team, which signed second-round pick Dominic McGuire, a 6-foot-8 small forward, and traded the rights to Juan Carlos Navarro to Memphis for a first-round draft pick.

Blatche, who turns 21 next week, was a restricted free agent, meaning Washington could keep him if it matched an offer sheet from another team. There was some initial interest in the 6-foot-11 Blatche, but it dwindled after his Aug. 2 arrest for solicitation of a female undercover police officer posing as a prostitute in the District.

Blatche was not available for comment.

Grunfeld downplayed whether Blatche’s legal troubles and character had affected other teams’ interest in him.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “We were at a certain point in the negotiations prior to that. I talked to Andray about the situation. He wishes it had not happened. He is sorry about it. He will learn from it and move on.”

Blatche is unlikely to serve any jail time and should be available when training camp opens in October.

Blatche came to the District out of Connecticut’s South Kent Prep in 2005. Before his rookie season, he was the victim of an apparent carjacking and was shot. He missed all of training camp while recovering from injuries to his chest and forearm. He played in the NBA Development League that season and in 29 games for the Wizards.

Last season, Blatche started 13 games as the Wizards dealt with injuries. He played in 56 games, averaging 3.7 points and 3.4 rebounds. He had his first double-double — 11 points, 10 rebounds — and had four blocks in only 22 minutes on Feb. 14 against Philadelphia.

“He did a good job filling in when Antawn [Jamison] and Caron [Butler] were hurt,” Grunfeld said. “We feel like he has a good future.”

Blatche’s deal likely will be the Wizards’ last major order of business this offseason. The Wizards made few changes to last season’s roster, adding 7-footer Oleksiy Pecherov — their 2006 first-round pick — and this year’s first-rounder, guard Nick Young.

“Our No. 1 goal all summer was to get DeShawn and Andray signed,” Grunfeld said. “We’re deeper and more athletic than we were last year.”

Backup shooting guard Jarvis Hayes signed with the Detroit Pistons, but he did not figure into the Wizards’ plans.

Washington now has 12 players under guaranteed contract. Forward Mike Hall and guard Donell Taylor, who were with the team last season, will also be in training camp.

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