- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2011

They should be on the court together right now, these two new Wizards teammates.

One, the veteran swingman with the poise and polish of a leader who came to Washington less than a year ago. The other a still-young 7-footer who finally is ready to embrace the leadership role that his talent destined him to one day embrace.

But the two are miles apart.

One, Maurice Evans, has been camped out in New York as he fulfills his duties as vice president of the NBA Players Association. Evans always is front and center, standing right beside union president Derek Fisher and executive director Billy Hunter, usually clad in shirtsleeves, tie, and a button-down vest.

The other, Andray Blatche, has focused on charity work and staying in shape. He was set to add a key element to his game this year — maturity.

But the season, which should have started Nov. 1, is on hold. On Monday, the players union rejected the owners’ latest proposal to end a lockout that began July 1. They have filed a disclaimer of interest, with plans to possibly decertify the union.

“I’m very disappointed we were not able to come to a deal,” Blatche said late Monday night, when the 400-plus NBA players were notified that the deal had been rejected. But he understands that Evans, Hunter and Fisher are doing what they believe is right in the long term. Blatche trusts their judgement.

“They are the experienced ones. They are doing what’s best for the current and future players,” he said. “My understanding is that we are not getting a fair deal and we have no choice but to take our chances in court.”

After months of endless negotiation sessions, held mostly in New York hotel conference rooms, the sides find themselves unable to agree on terms for a collective bargaining agreement.

“We understand the consequences of potentially missing the season,” Evans said. “We understand the consequences that players could potentially face if things don’t go our way, but it’s a risk worth taking. It’s the right move to do.”

Now, basketball courts have been exchanged for courts of law, as litigation trumps negotiation, and the rhetoric is beginning to get ugly.

Evans, who turned 33 last week, will continue his work on behalf of the players. In addition to his VP duties, Evans found time this offseason to complete his degree in education from the University of Texas.

And Blatche, who turned 25 in August, will continue working on his game. Not a major player in all the summer-league barnstorming tours like teammate John Wall or D.C. native Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Blatche is more ready than most just to be able to play. He knows it’s a long shot.

“It seems as if we will not have a season this year, which makes me extremely disappointed,” Blatche said. “I will still pray for a miracle that somehow, we will start playing ball early next year.”

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