Sunnier Days For A Frozen New Jersey Soul
Nothing has come easy for former, brief Washington Wizard Randy Foye since he joined the NBA in 2006. But the reversed-organed kid (Situs inversus for you doctors) from a rough neighborhood in cold New Jersey has always had cloudy obstacles to overcome.
A Kevin McHale draft day deal sent Foye as the No. 7 pick (via the Boston Celtics) from the Portland Trailblazers to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for the No. 6 pick, Brandon Roy. While Foye averaged a respectable 10.1 points per game and a December 2006 Western Conference Rookie of the Month award during his inaugural pro campaign in Minnesota, Roy enjoyed Rookie of the Year honors for the Trail Blazers.
As Foye steadily increased his scoring output in the coming years, Roy shot up the charts as a top player in the league’s top conference, making the Western Conference All-Star team as a reserve in 2008, 2009 and 2010. During those three years Foye’s T-Wolves shuffled through three coaches, never winning more than 24 games in a season. In Portland, Roy enjoyed team success under coach Nate McMillan, winning 30 more games than Foye in 2009 and leading the Blazers back to the playoffs after a five-year drought.
It’s like being compared by your mother to the brother who gets straight A’s — you can’t hide from it. And just as things were potentially looking up for Foye, being packaged nicely with a pony-tailed Mike Miller to help the Wizards get over the playoff hump, reality eventually came crashing down for the team, and for him.
After high hopes, a career in Washington quickly fizzled, leaving Wizards fans wondering about the ‘what ifs’. What if Foye and Miller hadn’t come to D.C.> What if Ernie Grunfeld had kept the fifth pick in the 2009 draft and gotten a young sharp-shooter in Stephen Curry? But that’s all speculation and this is what we know about Foye’s time in the nation’s capital:
He backed up Gilbert Arenas. He started alongside Arenas. He fell out of the rotation. He replaced Arenas in the starting lineup after his suspension. He backed up Shaun Livingston. He tore a ligament in his left thumb. He was out injured for the rest of the season.
After the Wizards decided not to make Foye a restricted free-agent, he moved on to better things in Los Angeles by signing with the Clippers last July.
“We have a lot of potential. We have a lot of young guys, exciting guys that’s willing to work hard,” Foye told Truth About It’s Rashad Mobley before Saturday’s game. “That’s big for us and we just have to continue to grow and learn every day.”
No, he isn’t having a breakout year. His numbers on a per 36-minute basis are actually down from his time in Washington. But he’s getting a real chance to help shoulder the load with Mo Williams in the Clippers’ backcourt. And he’s making the most of it.
Since starting guard Eric Gordon’s injury on January 24, Foye has doubled his minutes and scored in double figures in 19 of those 24 games going into Saturday’s contest at the Verizon Center. He’s shaken off a hamstring injury from earlier in the season and is making good use of his newfound minutes. There’s only been one game in the past 22 where he’s played less than 30 minutes, and he’s averaging just over 16 points per game with all those minutes – something he struggled to do in a Wizards uniform.
Even though his team is again on the outside of a playoff race, Foye is in a sunny place where Katy Perry and other California “gurls” wear daisy dukes with bikinis on top. With Blake Griffin leading the way, the forecast is better than it’s ever been. Around this time last year, Foye’s Wizards were in the seventh game of a 16-game losing streak that didn’t end until the last day of March — a game that was Foye’s third straight missed due to a wrist injury that eventually became season-ending.
On March 7, 2010, Foye was a Wizard playing the Celtics. He totaled more than 35 minutes, scored nine points and handed out eight assists in a three-point loss. A year and two days later on March 9, 2011, Foye again played the C’s, but with a different outcome. He played close to 37 minutes, scored nine points and dished out 12 assists in a five-point Clippers win.
Being healthy has also aided Foye’s new environment.
“This year’s been great for me because last year I came off two surgeries, a major wrist injury,” Foye told Mobley, “and this year’s just been great for me. I’m stronger than ever and happy to play the game I love.”
As mentioned, the Wizards were 1-16 in March 2010, losing their first 16 games of the month. After blowing out Washington 122-101 on Saturday night, the Clippers have won five of their first six March games with Foye helping out the starting backcourt in the last four. Though they’re still looking at their sixth straight NBA Draft lottery appearance (and 14 out of the last 15 seasons), but the 26-41 Clippers are a young squad with a better outlook than the days when Lamar Odom, Elton Brand and Darius Miles were the future of the organization.
This time, hopefully, Foye can help the current Clips become something longer-term and more reminiscent of the current Oklahoma City Thunder — young, energetic and on the cusp of bigger and better things. That would be some nice California sun warming Foye’s skin at this point in his career.
[Ryan Gracia is majoring in sports communication and journalism at George Mason University; follow him on Twitter @rgracia2378]
[all photos: Kyle Weidie, Truth About It.net]