- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2007

By the end of summer, Eddie Jordan wondered whether 6-foot-11, second-year forward Andray Blatche was buying into all the stories written about him on the Internet and in basketball publications.

Playing against a summer-league mix that included some players who never will compete in the NBA, Blatche showed skills and a nose for the game usually found in players at least a half-foot shorter.

As it turns out Blatche, 20, had bought into his own hype.

“Of course, I’m still young,” Blatche said, laughing. “I took it, and I ran with it. It suped my head up some. But I had to come back to reality. The reality is that I was coming back to the Wizards, and we have some awesome players here. So I had to come back here and just play my role.”

Right now his role as defined by Jordan is running the floor, filling the lanes, getting out the way, defending and rebounding. If he does those things, the gifted Blatche should continue to be a key component for the Wizards, who today play host to the San Antonio Spurs (32-16).

When training camp started, Jordan made it a point to tell reporters he did not know how highly Blatche regarded himself at the end of the summer. Jordan and everyone else in the team’s front office, however, warned it’s hard to assess where a young player is in his development until he is playing against NBA talent every night.

The injury to Antawn Jamison (sprained left knee) thrust Blatche into that position the past week, and the results so far have been good.

Blatche played almost 17 minutes and turned in his best game by far in the Wizards’ 118-108 win over the Seattle SuperSonics on Monday. He finished with 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and had an assist and a blocked shot.

Jordan was happy Blatche did not try to do anything outside of what he has been asked. Jordan said Blatche will continue to get more playing time should he continue on that path.

“Yeah, he’s just beginning,” Jordan said. “If he understands that that is what he needs to do, then everything else will come easier. You have to play at a high energy level. You have to concentrate. You have to retain what we are trying to do and apply it.

“But if you play hard, then good things will happen for you if you’re talented and you’re skillful. We saw how easy the game can be for him.”

Blatche averages 2.3 points and 2.2 rebounds a game. He already has appeared in 29 games this season, matching his total from last season. In 2005-06, Blatche averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds.

The numbers are strikingly similar, but the difference is his averages last year were formed exclusively in games that already had been decided.

That likely won’t be the case for Blatche in the team’s remaining 35 games. Jordan will turn to Blatche and team him up with Brendan Haywood at times, especially when the Wizards need more size and length on the floor.

The good news for Blatche is he has gotten beyond all of the effusions regarding his abilities. The better news is they are coming from more reputable sources these days, and Blatche knows how to handle them.

“I was in his ear telling him, ‘You’ve got potential to be really special if you continue to work had,’ ” All-Star Caron Butler said.

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