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Andray Blatche's role increasing in Nets' series against Bulls

Andray Blatche looks on during Game 1 of

Andray Blatche looks on during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Chicago Bulls. (April 20, 2013) Credit: Getty

So the Nets put themselves in need of a big bounceback Thursday night with a poor game Monday night. So what. They have seen much worse. For Andray Blatche, what's one game when you've had one long, bad season that threatened your career?

Blatche is grateful every day, especially these days in the playoffs, for the shot at revival that the Nets offered. They claimed him from amnesty-clause oblivion and turned him into an important part of the team. He figures to be more important than ever for the rest of this series against the Bulls, now that the opponent has Joakim Noah back.

Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo countered Chicago's big, deep frontcourt, which features Noah and Carlos Boozer, in each of the first two games by playing Blatche alongside Brook Lopez. It would not be a surprise to see more of it when the tied series resumes in Chicago Thursday night.

"He stretches the floor when he's in. People definitely have to respect him, especially offensively. There's less [defensive] help," Lopez said. "Deron and Joe can attest to that, as well."

What Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and everyone on the Nets attest is that Blatche has been better than the player who was so out of shape and uninspiring last season that the Wizards could not wait to get rid of him. The Nets gave the seven-year veteran a minimum contract and a clean slate.

"It all started with Avery when I first got here," Blatche said, referring to dismissed coach Avery Johnson. "Ever since then, they've been giving me the opportunity to play. I've been trying to do my best. Now we're in the playoffs and I just want to make a difference, make the best out of the situation."

He had a career playoff-high 12 points in Game 1. On Monday night, when the Nets were far from sharp, Blatche actually was OK. He made a few big shots and had several key rebounds when the Nets were making a comeback. Carlesimo kept him in down the stretch, with Lopez and without starting power forward Reggie Evans.

"We've got to pick it up on defense, and need all five to rebound to pick up for the absence of Reggie. He's a rebounding animal," Blatche said.

Judging from the byplay during games against the Wizards -- he made John Wall laugh while he was on the free-throw line -- it appears that Blatche has an easy way with teammates past and present. "I get along with everybody, try to keep everybody smiling," he said, adding that the atmosphere around the Nets encourages healthy give-and-take doses of criticism.

"We have a lot of veteran players that come off the bench. We all know our job responsibilities and we hold each other accountable for it," said the player who will be counted on to help the Nets recover Thursday night, and to keep his own second-chance season going.

New York Sports