Surging Nets not distracted: Blatche, team thrive in wake of sexual assault investigation
Distractions? What distractions?
Andray Blatche, questioned by Philadelphia police earlier Tuesday regarding the alleged sexual assault of a 21-year-old woman in his hotel suite at the Four Seasons, didn’t appear to let the well-publicized incident affect his play as the red-hot Brooklyn Nets won their fourth straight game and sixth in seven contests under new head coach P.J. Carlesimo with a 109-89 rout of the 76ers before 16,167 fans at the Wells Fargo Center.
Blatche, who saw his share of off-the-court troubles during six tumultuous seasons with the hapless Washington Wizards, continued to thrive as one of the key ingredients of the resurgent Nets’ “Bench Mob” Tuesday night, scoring 20 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out a couple of assists in 22 minutes.
The 26-year-old backup center was interviewed as a witness by Philly cops after being hauled in with a pair of other men early Tuesday morning.
”Im ok and I didn’t do anything jus was n the area when it happened,” Blatche tweeted after being released.
Prior to the 7 p.m. tip-off, Carlesimo, who replaced fired Nets coach Avery Johnson in late December following the team’s month-long swoon, didn’t expect Blatche’s effort to drop off during the ongoing investigation. And Blatche proved him right by draining 8-of-15 shots and all four of his free throws as Brooklyn pulled within 3 1/2 games of first-place East River rival New York in the Atlantic Division standings.
‘[Blatche has] been playing well and I expect him to play well today,” Carlesimo noted. ‘NBA players are resilient. That is one of their traits. They come to play.”
While some questioned the acquisition of the 6-foot-11, 260-pound Syracuse native during general manager Billy King’s $330 million summer spending spree, Blatche has emerged as perhaps the Nets’ most lethal reserve, especially since rebounding machine Reggie Evans was inserted into the starting lineup.
Averaging 11.3 rebounds and 6.1 rebounds in just over 20 minutes off the bench per contest, the former second-round pick is enjoying a comeback season after putting up just 8.5 points per game in 26 appearances for the Wizards last year.
But one bad night in the City of Brotherly Love dredged up Blatche’s past in an instant. He was charged with sexual solicitation in Washington in 2007 and was arrested for reckless driving in Virginia in 2008.
Blatche was reportedly celebrating having his contract picked up for the remainder of the season at a Philadelphia strip club the night of the alleged rape. He returned to the Four Seasons with several friends, as well as the victim, in the early morning hours. The assault took place at approximately 3:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, according to police sources.
The Nets, to a man, downplayed the potential for distraction stemming from the incident before and after Tuesday night’s win.
”We’ve had to deal with some adversity the last couple of weeks,” said Nets point guard Deron Williams, who finished with 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting. ”But we’re a resilient group. We stick together as a team and we did that tonight.”
Evans, already the NBA’s top rebounder per 48 minutes, pulled down a career-best 23 boards in the win, clearing the path for his teammates to concentrate on their scoring and defense.
“(Reggie) gave us an opportunity to get out and run, push the ball,” said forward Gerald Wallace. “When you’re not so much concerned about rebounding because he’s cleaning up all the boards, you have more guys out on the fast break.”
“When you’re in the zone, you’re just in the zone,” added Evans, who is averaging 8.7 caroms per contest this season. “I don’t trip about scoring, I just do what I do.”
At 20-15, the Nets own the sixth-best record in the Eastern Conference as they continue the push to return to the playoffs following a five-year absence from postseason play. Brooklyn boasts a perfect 13-0 record against opponents with sub-.500 records and is 10-2 when putting up at least 100 points during its historic inaugural campaign in our fair borough.
The Nets will be back in Downtown Brooklyn this weekend to kick off a three-game homestand against Phoenix on Friday night. They will host Indiana on Sunday and Toronto next Tuesday before visiting Atlanta for the opener of a home-and-home series Wednesday.
Hoop du Jour: Evans’ previous career high in rebounds was 22, also in Philadelphia, as a member of the Toronto Raptors in November 2010. “I respect the fans here,” Evans said. “This is a hard-working, blue-collar city. It kind of reminds me of Brooklyn.” … F Kris Humphries, who had missed the previous two games with an ankle injury, returned to action Tuesday night. He scored two points and grabbed three rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench. … The Nets made 10-of-24 3-pointers and 19-of-22 free throws against Philly. … Brooklyn is 7-3 against Atlantic Division foes and 15-8 vs. conference opponents this year. … The Nets’ 94.7 points-against average is the lowest in the division. … Only the Pacers (8-2) have a better record than the Nets (7-3) over the last 10 games among Eastern Conference teams. … Brooklyn will try to improve on its 12-7 home mark Friday night against the Suns. The Nets are 8-8 on the road.
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