Washington Wizards bench DeShawn Stevenson, which could open the way for Randy Foye

The Wizards' Randy Foye has been lost in the shuffle recently, though that may change with DeShawn Stevenson losing his starting spot.
The Wizards' Randy Foye has been lost in the shuffle recently, though that may change with DeShawn Stevenson losing his starting spot. (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Randy Foye felt like he was in familiar territory when the Washington Wizards' team plane landed at Dulles International Airport early Sunday. On his drive home, the former Minnesota resident noticed that the entire area was blanketed with snow.

"It felt just like Minnesota. We was getting 20 inches every other week. Nothing new at all," Foye said after practice on Monday, wearing a black wool coat, stocking cap and scarf, as he prepared to leave Verizon Center and brave the weather once more.

But when the Wizards host former coach Eddie Jordan and the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, Foye may again find himself in another position he had grown accustomed to in three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves -- as a starting guard.

Coach Flip Saunders announced that he would pair either Foye or Nick Young in the back court with Gilbert Arenas instead of the ineffective DeShawn Stevenson, who shot just 2 for 16 (12.5 percent) while starting the past five games, with the Wizards (8-17) going just 1-4 during that stretch.

Should Foye get the nod, it would be the Wizards' 11th different starting lineup this season. With regular starting shooting guard Mike Miller missing three games with a left shoulder strain and the past 13 games with a right calf strain, Saunders has been juggling players at the spot, including Young, Stevenson and Foye. The Wizards are 1-1 with Foye as the starter this season and he is averaging 16.5 points, 4.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds in those contests.

Foye was expected to be Arenas's primary backup when the Wizards acquired him as part in the trade that shipped the No. 5 pick to Minnesota. Through the first seven games, Foye averaged 12.9 points and 3.2 assists in 29 minutes a game, and Arenas said Foye complemented him the way Larry Hughes once did. But after spraining his right ankle in Miami on Nov. 10 and missing the following game, Foye has continually been overlooked or handed spot duty as Saunders relied on Earl Boykins as his first guard off the bench, with Stevenson and Young getting most of the playing time at shooting guard.

"It definitely was a difficult situation, because that never happened to me before, coming in for four minutes and being taken out -- even if you make a shot. It was tough for me," said Foye, who is averaging just 4.3 points and 10.4 minutes in the past 16 games. "But I just stayed positive, just spoke to my family. Biggest thing was don't lose my work ethic. A lot of people -- in my time since I've been in the league -- when something like this happens, they lose their work ethic and when they're put back in a situation where they are able to play, they are not ready or their conditioning isn't there. That's one of the things I try not to do."

Although he didn't understand how he fell out of the rotation, Foye said he was just patiently waited for another opportunity. "I wasn't hoping. I just was working hard every day," Foye said. "No matter what the situation was, I came to work with the hard hat on, came ready to go. No matter what they had me do. I was ready for it."

Saunders had hoped that Stevenson would provide a defensive presence and help generate better ball movement, but Stevenson's inability to make shots nullified any contributions he could have made on the defensive end. Stevenson has started six games this season, but his production wasn't much different than when he was a reserve. He's averaging just 2.2 points and shooting 25 percent from the floor, which is worse than last season, when he shot a career-worst 31.2 percent and missed 50 games after having season-ending back surgery.

"It puts more pressure on the other guys at times. He hasn't had the ability to knock down some shots when he's open," Saunders said. "I think it's a combination of having the year off, and he couldn't do much in the summertime because of the back, he just tried to get back in shape and get his weight down and so because he's been off for so long, he just couldn't get into a groove. I told him we'll just have to keep working on getting that thing back to what it was."

Stevenson said he understands the move. "It's part of basketball. You just got to be a pro and be positive," Stevenson said. "It's tough, but we got a new coach, I ain't played in a year. I got to stay positive and not get down on myself. Just work through it. I can get through it. I've been through worst situations."

The Wizards hope to hold out Miller until Jan. 1, but Miller joked that if it were up to him, he'd be back on the court against the 76ers. Miller added that his calf injury has served as a blessing in disguise because it has allowed him to let his shoulder fully heal. But with upcoming games against his former teams, Minnesota and Memphis, Miller admitted that he is tempted to return.

"At the same time, we got 50-something games left and you don't want to come out because of those circumstances and have another injury or end up prolonging more," Miller said. "But if there is an opportunity, I will be playing. It depends how these games go here and how I'm feeling, if there is anything else I can do to speed the process."

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