IN his own humble way, Gilas Pilipinas naturalized player Andray Blatche paid his last respect to the late Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders by expressing gratitude to the man who was at the helm when he played the best season of his NBA career.
The 29-year-old big man thanked Saunders for ‘staying on me and believing in me’ during the time when the two of them were together with the Washington Wizards.
Blatche took to both Twitter and Instagram to express his feelings for his former coach, who died on Sunday (Monday morning, Manila time) of Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 60.
“May prayers r with your family thank you for staying on me and believing n me even tho I let you down I knew u cared,” said Blatche in his account @drayblatche, adorning the post with a photo of him getting some instructions from Saunders.
Blatche played for Saunders for two-and-a-half seasons with the Wizards, who despite not being a playoff-bound team during those times, saw the emergence of the 6-11 New York native as a young rising force in the league.
In Saunders’ first year with the struggling Wizards, Blatche suited up in 81 games and averaged 14.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
But it was the following season when the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart was at his best, submitting averages of 16.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.5 steals in 64 games.
Unknown to many, while Blatche was playing the best basketball of his NBA career, he was also often at odds with Saunders as he himself disclosed in his Instagram account @draylive.
“No this is unreal a dint n my heart for sure. We hardly seen eye to eye n person because I was young and prideful but behind closed doors I would tell everyone he was one of my favorite coaches,” said Blatche.
“I’m so sad even mad I didn’t get the chance to tell him what he really did for me. 452/452 twist my fav plays will forever be drilled in my head. My prayers go to your family. I’m so sorry.”
When Saunders was fired midway through the 2011-12 season, Blatche’s stint with the Wizards also proved to be his last.
By the summer, he was waived by Washington via the amnesty clause, ending seven seasons withr the Wizards, who picked him 49th overall (second round) in the 2005 draft out of high school.
Blatche was later on signed by the Brooklyn Nets before hooking up with Gilas Pilipinas as a naturalized player during the team's stint in last year's Fiba World Cup in Spain.
My prayers r with your family thank you for staying on me and believing n me even tho I let you down I knew u cared pic.twitter.com/LRclo7jwZx— andray blatche (@drayblatche) October 26, 2015