Wizards' Randy Foye steps into latest starting role

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 10, 2010; D03

From the time the Washington Wizards acquired him from Minnesota last June, Randy Foye was considered a de facto insurance policy for Gilbert Arenas. The initial thought was that Foye could fill in if Arenas's troublesome left knee forced him to miss action or kept him from substantial playing time.

The Wizards could not have foreseen Foye eventually becoming their starting point guard because Arenas's troublesome judgment would lead to an indefinite suspension that puts his career and the organization in disarray.

"Not the way that you would want the opportunity to present itself to you," Foye said, "but under these circumstances, whatever you can do to help the team win, you've got to do it."

In his first start in place of Arenas, Foye scored 20 points with six assists and no turnovers as the Wizards (12-22) defeated the Orlando Magic, 104-97, on Friday. Foye's normal pregame routine was broken up because he had spent nearly two hours with law enforcement officials discussing what he knew about the Dec. 21 dispute between Arenas and Javaris Crittenton that involved guns.

"It hasn't been tough for me because this is what I'm here for, to play basketball," said Foye, who has averaged 19 points in the two games since Arenas was suspended. "Whatever is going on outside of basketball, when I step on the court, that's how I relax, focus and play. Now, off the court, that's when it kind of hits."

Foye and his teammates were able to block out the latest off-court distraction with an inspired effort that resulted in the team receiving a rare standing ovation at Verizon Center. The Wizards were aided by the return of Mike Miller, who arrived with Foye in the trade with the Timberwolves but missed the previous 21 games with a strained right calf. Miller came back with a different look, having sheered his long locks for a buzz cut, and provided another look for the Wizards by making plays and encouraging better ball movement.

"I've been out for a while now and it's fun to play again. It's fun to win, more importantly," said Miller, who had six points and six assists Friday and is accustomed to sharing the back court with Foye. "We have a comfort level there. We've played with each other for 82 games last year. There's a comfort level there. We play well off each other. We're going to continue to have to do that well. The ball's going to be in his hands and my hands a lot, especially with Gil out, and we got to make plays for everybody."

Foye's role has changed almost every other week this season. He was Arenas's primary backup at point guard, then started a game at shooting guard. He went back to being an offensive spark off the bench, then lost his spot in the rotation to Earl Boykins after spraining his ankle. He was inserted into the starting lineup at shooting guard for seven games, then went back to the bench before going back to the lineup as point guard against Orlando.

"I just tried to be professional. That's what I try to do. When I wasn't playing, I never said anything. When I was playing, I never said anything. If I was playing limited minutes, I never said anything," said Foye, who is averaging eight points and 1.6 assists this season, but 14 points and 3.6 assists in eight starts. "It's just confidence. I have a certain comfort level now, where I feel as though I'm not looking over my shoulder. I feel I'm able to go out there, execute the offense and just play."

Foye was among the four players fined $10,000 each for their roles in a pregame episode on Tuesday in Philadelphia, where Arenas formed his fingers into guns and playfully acted as if he was shooting his teammates. "We shouldn't have done it, it was foolish on my end, and I take full responsibility for it," he said. "The guys that were fined, we knew why we were fined. We did a little bit extra. We understand that it was foolish, and as role models we can't do things like that."

Foye added that he understood the serious ramifications of the incident involving Arenas and Crittenton. "We feel bad for the guys, but at the same time, we understand -- you do something, there's always consequences. There's always karma," he said. "I know they understand that. They're handling this as professionals, but you live and you learn from these situations. What don't kill you only makes you stronger."

Foye said the adversity has helped the other players draw closer. "Everyone's coming together," he said. "Everyone's like: 'Let's go. Everyone is counting us out, let's show them.' "

Wizards note: Adidas, Arenas's shoe company since 2003, released a statement on Friday that put him on notice. "We are evaluating our relationship with Gilbert Arenas based on his recent conduct and subsequent suspension from the NBA," Adidas spokeswoman Lyn Famiglietti said. "We echo the Commissioner's concern for such a serious incident and will continue to follow the investigation by the league and law enforcement."

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