- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2011

Andray Blatche was counting on this season to prove a few naysayers wrong

The Wizards center has heard the criticism of his inconsistent play and was ready to take on a leadership role with Washington this year, his seventh.

Blatche organized team workouts this summer and skipped the summer league circuit to focus on charity work.

Blatche said he’s still hopeful, but he’s also concerned that the NBA season could be in jeopardy.

“I have a lot of confidence in [players’ union president] Derek Fisher. I believe that he and the [executive committee] team are working hard to get things resolved soon,” Blatche said. “I know that I’m represented by individuals who are looking out for the best interest of the current players and for the future players also. I am praying that the lockout will come to an end very soon and everyone can return to work.”

The NBA lockout, which began July 1, has resulted in the cancellation of games through the end of November. The season was scheduled to begin Nov. 1, but the league and the players’ union have been unable to reach a collective bargaining agreement.

“I miss my teammates, and I’m not able to speak with the individuals who have been a part of my basketball development,” Blatche said.

His workouts were sparsely attended, since most of the Wizards players were working out and playing in summer-league games on the West Coast. John Wall, Nick Young, Jordan Crawford and JaVale McGee conducted most of their workouts in Los Angeles.

Trevor Booker signed a deal to play in Israel, and Kevin Seraphin went to Spain. Rookie Chris Singleton returned to Florida State to complete his degree.

“The lockout didn’t come as a surprise to me. We all knew this could happen,” Singleton said. “Just like all the NBA fans out there, I just want to play and see some basketball. I do think there will be a season. Just like most of the guys, I have been finding other things to do with my time.”

Blatche and Singleton have maintained an optimistic stance throughout the lockout and are still hopeful that there will be a shortened season once an agreement is reached.

But hopes began to dim somewhat after the most recent round of talks broke down Saturday. The league issued a Wednesday deadline for the union to accept its latest proposal, while the players are discussing the possibility of decertifying the union and taking their chances in court.

Players’ union executive director Billy Hunter is holding ongoing conference calls with players to discuss decertification as a possible strategy, contending that the league is not bargaining in good faith. NBA commissioner David Stern has indicated that the league’s proposals would only get worse as time goes on, as the owners will seek to recoup lost revenue from canceled games.

“I’ve never been in a situation when there was no basketball,” said Wizards swingman Othyus Jeffers. “I just wish they could come to an agreement. If we don’t have a season, I think everyone understands what a big hit that will be to the league.”

Jeffers made it to the NBA the hard way, by way of the NBA Developmental League, and looks at the lockout from a different perspective than those with million-dollar contracts.

While a lot of fed-up fans have expressed emotions ranging from anger to apathy at a fight between billionaire owners and millionaire players, Jeffers offered a reminder that the collateral damage goes far beyond those two groups.

“A lot of people will be impacted, people who have families to take care of, and that’s not just about the players. I’m paying attention to what’s going on.” Jeffers said. “We all need to [pay attention], because a lot of people’s livelihoods are at stake.”

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