WASHINGTON (AP) — Maybe Washington Wizards fans were keeping up with the Kardashians.
At least that might explain why they relentlessly booed Kris Humphries, the New Jersey Nets forward famous for his much-hyped — and short-lived — marriage to Kim Kardashian.
Jeered during pregame introductions and harangued every time he touched the ball Monday night, Humphries ignored all the attention and finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds, helping New Jersey erase a 21-point deficit and come all the way back to beat Washington 90-84 in the season opener for both teams.
“To me, it’s motivation. People are yelling at you — you’ve got to perform, you’ve got to play hard. They might want to have a reason to say something. You want to try and give them that reason,” Humphries said. “For me, it’s just makes it a little hostile environment — and it’s kind of fun to play in that environment.”
Nets coach Avery Johnson, for one, was at a loss to explain all the hostility Humphries heard.
“I’m trying to figure out: What did he do? I’m serious. It may be because I don’t follow reality TV — I don’t know all the ins and outs of it. It’s pretty hilarious to me,” Johnson said. “I don’t even know if THEY know why they’re booing.”
Humphries even deflected a too-late pass by John Wall, a turnover that thwarted Washington’s last good chance, trailing by only three points in the final minute.
Afterward, there was a bit of drama in the Wizards’ locker room, where power forward Andray Blatche — who opened a pregame speech to the home crowd by saying, “This is your captain, Andray Blatche” — voiced displeasure with the play-calling and said he should get the ball down low more than out on the wings. He then repeated that complaint on Twitter.
All it took was one regular-season game for the in-fighting to start in Washington.
“Is it trust? Or is it, `I think that I can make a play to get us going again,’ and you try to do it individually? In our league, you can’t do it, unless you’re one of the elite players,” coach Flip Saunders said. “We don’t have anyone that’s at that elite status right now.”
When a reporter relayed the gist of what Saunders said, Blatche responded: “He probably was talking about me, because for the simple fact that I said that I need the ball in the paint to be effective.”
“You can’t keep having me pick-and-pop and shooting jump shots. Give me the ball in the paint. That’s where I’m most effective at. I’ve been saying that since training camp: I need the ball in the paint. I don’t want to be the pick-and-pop guy that I used to be. It’s not working for me,” continued Blatche, who shot 5 for 13, scored 11 points and was called for a technical foul. “I’m not saying the offense has to run through me, but I prefer to be in the paint.”
He shook his head. He stared at the carpet. He shrugged his shoulders. And then he sat in front of his locker, in full uniform, for a good half-hour after the game had ended.
Blatche offered a simple analysis of how Washington went from being ahead 37-16 in the second quarter to trailing in the third.
“Our blessing was our curse,” Blatche said. “Getting up by 20 so early and so easy was a curse for us, because then guys started to get relaxed, and then we all wanted to start to play 1-on-1 basketball.”
Which, as Wall explained, isn’t something that generally will work in Washington’s favor.
“We have nobody on our team that’s THAT great,” Wall said, echoing his coach.
Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, was outdueled by New Jersey point guard Deron Williams, who accumulated 23 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Wall had 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists, shooting only 3 for 13 on field-goal attempts, and 7 for 13 on free throws.
Backup shooting guard Nick Young led Washington with 16 points in just 18 minutes. He missed a large part of the second half after jamming his left foot, but returned.
Humphries re-signed with the Nets last week and was in the starting five Monday because Johnson decided to drop Shelden Williams from the lineup.
Wizards fans greeted Humphries — who split up from Kardashian 72 days after their wedding — with loud jeers when he was first introduced. The booing reached a crescendo when Humphries was about to attempt a free throw in the first quarter, then turned to cheers when his shot clanged off the front of the rim. Fans also applauded and shouted approval when Humphries was whistled for fouls.
But he helped New Jersey put together a 58-38 rebounding edge. And when Humphries hit an 18-foot jumper four minutes into the second half, a game that Washington led 38-17 suddenly was tied at 53. About halfway through the third quarter, Deron Williams’ 3-pointer made it 58-57, the Nets’ first lead of the evening.
“It’s good to get the win,” Humphries said. “We were down by 21. That’s funny to say.”
Notes: The Wizards (who went 23-59) and Nets (24-58) were two of the six worst teams in the NBA last season, and neither made any truly significant additions. Both went 0-2 during the abbreviated, post-lockout exhibition schedule. … According to the Nets, their collection of guys named Williams make New Jersey the first team in NBA history to have four players with the same last name on a regular-season roster together: Deron, Jordan, Shawne and Shelden.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)