Andray Blatche finds niche with Nets as Brooklyn’s court jester

BOSTON — Andray Blatche, all 6-feet and 11 inches of him, is dribbling up the court on his one-man fast break, deciding against the principles of basketball to take on a guard along the perimeter.

He turns his back to the smaller Grizzlies opponent, Nick Calathes, and spins to leave the defender stumbling by the 3-point line. A Grizzlies forward positions himself in the paint, bracing for a charge and the inevitable contact. But Blatche avoids him with a Eurostep — exhibiting impressive footwork for a center — before converting a finger roll that started from his hip.

“The whole thing was a like a chicken dinner,” Blatche says about the third-quarter move in Wednesday’s win.

“You have the chicken, the roll and the corn.”

For the most part during their prevailing stretch, the Nets have been a sound and crisp team, winning with defense and high-percentage opportunities on offense.

Blatche does things a bit differently.

Andray Blatche keeps the mood light with Nets teammate Mason Plumlee.

Paul Bereswell/AP

Andray Blatche keeps the mood light with Nets teammate Mason Plumlee.

The offbeat backup center, a key part of the Nets’ rise to above .500 heading into Friday’s game against the Celtics, is Brooklyn’s version of Darryl Dawkins, an erratic talent full of entertaining and often nonsensical quotes. “From now on, I want ya’ll to call me Young Seymour,” he announced last month, the same day the 27-year-old African-American from Syracuse revealed that he’s applying for Filipino citizenship to play for their national team this summer. “Because the crowd wants to see more.”

There have been plenty of other Blatche-isms, or Blatche moments, throughout the season. Earlier in the season, he created a championship belt out of an Ace Bandage, wearing it alternately between his waist and forehead after beating Brook Lopez in a shooting contest. At most halftimes at home, he sits in a courtside seat and tries to bury a shot — representing the closest thing Barclays Center has to a halftime show.

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With the ball in his hands, Blatche is liable to pull up from beyond the arc, attempt a behind-the-back pass, drive the length of a court, or square up his defender with a shimmy move. All the above are also options on one possession.

“When he’s going into his Live mode, his Dray Live mode, anything can happen,” Deron Williams says.

“Dray Live” could be an alter ego, except Blatche rarely turns it off. It has worked out more often than not this season, with Blatche averaging 11.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in just 22 minutes. He has 12 games with at least 19 points, which is more than Williams, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

The Nets have embraced Andray Blatche's eccentric personality.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Nets have embraced Andray Blatche’s eccentric personality.

But Blatche’s erraticism has landed him in trouble throughout his nine-year career, both on and off the court. He was waived by the Wizards before last season after troubles with the law and his fitness. Washington used its amnesty clause to get rid of Blatche, essentially paying him $23 million to play for another team after his arrests for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover police officer and driving with a suspended license.

The only reason he was available to the Nets in the summer of 2012 was because he cleared the waiver wires, meaning nearly the entire NBA had lost faith.

But these Nets are embracing Blatche’s goofiness and free spirit, particularly Jason Kidd, who has given his second-unit anchor the green light to improvise.

And, thus far, it has been mostly positive, with benefits on the court and in the locker room.

“He lightens the mood, for sure,” rookie Mason Plumlee says.

“Eighty-two games, c’mon, are you kidding me? You need a guy like Dray around. He makes it fun. You’re a better team when you’re having fun.”