After a rather mediocre performance (and a loss) on the road to the Hawks, the Wizards returned to Washington for their home opener against the New Jersey Nets. What followed was nothing less than an inspiring offensive assault: The Wizards scored 123 points and shot 61.5 percent from the field, including a staggering 64.3 percent (9-14) mark from three-point range.
Gilbert Arenas led the Wizards with 32 points, but Andray Blatche was right behind him, posting a career-high 30 points. On a night when just about everyone was shooting the ball efficiently, Arenas and Blatche were no different: Arenas put up those points on just 13 field goal attempts (9-13), including shooting 11-12 from the free-throw line, and Blatche knocked down an astounding 15 of 18 shots.
Randy Foye followed Blatche with 17 points, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson each had 10, and Mike Miller had nine.
So Arenas has looked more than solid so far, and Foye and Miller appear to be great pieces fitting in with their new teammates, but, to me, the story of the first three games has been the improved play of Andray Blatche. Yes, it's only been three games, but let's look at what Blatche has done: In each game, he's scored in double figures, shot at least 57 percent, and grabbed at least six rebounds. Of course he won't do that in every game, but Blatche looks like a completely different player. He looks comfortable on the floor, finally appears to be in shape, and is both knocking down open mid-range jumpers and scoring around the paint with an array of pivots and shot fakes. Blatche even has more assists than turnovers (still, just 4-3), which is at least worth noting considering he has more turnovers in his career (293) than assists (263).
Again, it's obviously too early to know if Blatche can keep this level of play going, but it is acceptable to look at his performance last night and wonder exactly how good he can be. According to Basketball-Reference.com, since 1986-1987 only 11 players have had games where they shot better than 83.0 percent on at least 18 field goal attempts while also recording six rebounds and two assists. Some of those players include Dominique Wilkins, Clyde Drexler, Carlos Boozer, Shaquille O'Neal, Rashard Lewis, Shawn Marion, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Kevin McHale. That's certainly not a bad group of players to be associated with, although Willie Anderson and Loy Vaught also accomplished that feat within the same timeframe, so take that for what it's worth.
It'll be interesting to see how well Blatche plays when both Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison return to the Wizards' lineup. With the weapons the Wizards already seem to have, Blatche may just be the most intriguing piece.