By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The Washington Wizards certainly don't want to fall into the habit of being without Gilbert Arenas for an extended period of time again. But with Arenas sidelined with flu-like symptoms for consecutive games against Atlanta and Philadelphia, the Wizards got a small sample of what life would be like with Randy Foye filling in and running the show -- and it was a bit of a mixed bag.
Foye had an uneven game in his first start at point guard on Monday against the Hawks, as he led the Wizards with 19 points and six assists during a 113-95 loss. But he seemed uncomfortable finding a balance between getting his own shots and setting up his teammates, with the offense at times sputtering with his indecision.
Foye started slowly the next night against the 76ers but found his rhythm in the second half, as he scored 12 of his team-high 17 points and had all four of his assists while leading a 31-point third-quarter barrage.
"I thought early in the game, he struggled the first couple of minutes, then he got into a flow and got better," Coach Flip Saunders said after the 90-89 victory in Philadelphia. "I thought Randy was really good in the third quarter, when he settled down, got us into our offense, got us into good spacing and did a nice job. I think Randy, at times, has played extremely well."
The 6-foot-4 Foye arrived last June in Washington as a combo guard capable of playing alongside Arenas at shooting guard or spelling him at point guard. He wasn't necessarily hailed as an insurance policy for Arenas, but with Arenas's left knee sidelining him for 159 of the Wizards' last 174 regular season games, it didn't hurt to add a player who averaged 13 points in his three seasons with Minnesota. Foye averaged a career-high 16.3 points and started 61 games last season.
Saunders has used Foye as Arenas's primary backup during the preseason, but he has used him a variety of ways. He has asked him to run the offense, brought him off the bench to share the floor with Arenas or another ball-handler to catch his rhythm and also started him at shooting guard with Arenas in Toronto.
"It's a learning process," Foye said. "I'm just going out there, trying to find guys in the right spot. I have the ball 90 percent of the time, and I know I can always get a shot off, but I got to get them going first."
When asked which role best suits him, Foye said, "I like playing both. I like point guard more. It's a gift that I got that I can take my mind-set from being a point guard to a two guard and just click right away and just go. I work so much in the summer on shooting and ball-handling, so it comes naturally."
Last season, Foye was the primary perimeter scorer for the Timberwolves. He had 20 games in which he scored 20 or more points, but only six games with eight or more assists. Foye had his best performance of the preseason last week in Cleveland, when he scored or assisted on the Wizards' final 21 points in a 109-104 win. He scored 19 points and added an alleyoop lob to Nick Young for a dunk.
"I was just going out there, trying to make things happen. It felt like I was back in Minnesota, hitting all them big fourth-quarter shots with the Timberwolves. We didn't have many of them," Foye said, laughing, "but the ones we did, I hit a lot of them."
Arenas has a well-established reputation as the Wizards' closer, and Foye has sidled up next to Arenas throughout training camp and the preseason. They have arrived at the gym together and engaged in some post-practice competitions.
"Gilbert is just an unbelievable person to be around; a three-time all-star, who went through what I'm going through now," Foye said. "It's good to talk to a guy, pick his brain and try to learn from him. He backed a [point guard] up early on [in career], and he kept working and working and he's where he's at. I'm backing him up now and I'm going to keep on working and I hope I'll be where I want to be in the next few years."
Scoring point guards have thrived under Saunders throughout his time in the NBA, and Saunders has shared the same message with Foye that he has with Stephon Marbury, Chauncey Billups, Terrell Brandon and now Arenas. "He wants me to be on the attack all the time. And when I'm on the attack, I'm the best player I can be," Foye said. "In this offense, it's always, 'Be aggressive first.' "
Foye has averaged 19 points the past three games and led the Wizards in scoring in the past two. He said he is more at ease in his new surroundings.
"I feel good," he said. "I feel as though I have been accepted here with the guys. I feel as though our chemistry is starting to click, right here at the end" of preseason.