Washington Wizards press forward, without Randy Foye and Alonzo Gee
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
About an hour after the Washington Wizards completed an abbreviated, non-contact practice, Josh Howard emerged from an elevator and hobbled down the hallway near the locker room on crutches. Asked how he was doing after undergoing season-ending surgery two weeks ago, Howard smiled and said, "I'm good."
At least somebody with the Wizards is trying to stay positive. The task continues to be more difficult as this dreadful campaign drags on. On Monday, the Wizards realized that reserve guard Randy Foye is likely done for the season with an injured left wrist, while Alonzo Gee, who emerged as a surprising starter after two 10-day contracts, left to sign with the San Antonio Spurs.
With 10 games remaining and the Wizards (21-51) on a franchise-record 15-game losing streak, Coach Flip Saunders managed to find the bright side in a season of seemingly never-ending hardships.
"We know one way or another, it's going to come to an end here in two or three weeks," Saunders said before his team caught a flight to Houston, where they will try to avoid a 16th straight loss.
The end probably can't come soon enough for the few remaining players. An MRI exam on Monday revealed that Foye has a torn ligament in his left wrist. Saunders said the team plans to rest him for the next seven to 10 days and evaluate him afterward. But with only 16 days left in this season, Foye's return doesn't seem feasible.
"I think it would be very optimistic that he would be back by the end of the season, considering how his wrist has been bothering him," Saunders said.
Foye jammed his wrist reaching in on Chicago all-star point guard Derrick Rose on Feb. 22 -- the same night Howard tore his left anterior cruciate ligament -- but continued to play through the pain, wrapping tape around it and wearing a bulky brace after games. His production declined and he later lost the starting point guard job to Shaun Livingston.
"I was trying to fight through it and just grind it out," said Foye, who averaged just 8.9 points and shot 35.9 percent this month. "It was my left hand and I felt as though as long as I didn't hit it, where it was sore or it could hurt me."
Foye scored 17 points off the bench on Friday in Charlotte, but aggravated the injury when Bobcats point guard D.J. Augustin fouled him on a three-point attempt. Foye said on Saturday that the wrist kept him from making basic plays. A few games ago, Foye tried to pass to Nick Young on his left side with his right hand, but the ball deflected off his left hand and skidded out of bounds.
"I don't think any of us were aware of how bad it was," Saunders said. "He just couldn't get any bounce, dribbling with his left hand to get into his shot, and get into the offense. It makes sense with some of the things he was struggling to do at the time."
Gee impressed the Wizards' coaching staff with his athleticism and fearless attitude. In 11 games, Gee averaged 7.4 points, on 48.3 percent shooting, in 16.5 minutes. He was a starter in the Wizards' last two games in place of the injured Al Thornton (strained right hip flexor).
After Gee scored a career-high 19 points in Charlotte, Saunders said the team was going to sign him for the rest of the season. His second 10-day contract expired on Sunday, but the Spurs swooped in to sign him for the rest of the season and added a partially guaranteed deal for next season. Gee spent the first part of the season with the NBA Development League's Austin Toros, who are affiliated with the Spurs.
"He really enjoyed his time in Washington," Gee's agent, Andre Buck, said in a telephone interview. "He would've liked to have stayed, if he could've. It came down to making a business decision. He wanted to have some security."
The Wizards liked Gee, but not more than the financial flexibility of this summer, when they are expected to have nearly $18.7 million in salary cap room. "We brought Zo in here to look at him and he did a good job when he got here," Saunders said. "We weren't in a situation where we could jeopardize any flexibility. It could come back and hurt us, with what we were trying to do, signing free agents or whatever."
A person with knowledge of the Wizards' thinking said the team plans on replacing Gee with Cartier Martin of the D-League's Iowa Energy. Martin had previous NBA experience with the Bobcats and Golden State Warriors.
With few bodies left, Saunders held a 45-minute practice. "We didn't have any contact because I didn't want to take the chance of anybody getting hurt," Saunders said with a laugh, adding that he might have to call on some of his assistant coaches to help in the losing streak. "We're competitors. No one likes losing. No one likes the situation that we're in. When you lose, no matter how much toothpaste you use, you still have that bad taste in your mouth. Our guys have played hard through this stretch and have nothing to show for it."
Except more losses.