Right hand covered by what looked like a duffle bag of ice, A.J. Price walked from the locker room, in uniform and a warm-up jacket, to the Wizards’ bench to sit with his teammates for the finish of their 101-97 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
“It was important in my eyes to let the guys know my morale wasn’t down,” Price said. “Even though I was injured and I’ll be out, I’m still with them 100 percent – as I know they would be for me if the shoe was on the other foot.”
The Wizards are already without Trevor Booker (right knee), Trevor Ariza (left calf) and point guard John Wall, whose continued absence 10 weeks after his diagnosis with a stress injury in his left knee has raised concerns. And now they have added another player to a steadily-growing list of well-dressed wounded on Saturday, when Price said he attempted to poke away a rebound from Warriors forward Harrison Barnes and immediately “felt something go wrong.”
“I knew I hurt myself right away,” Price said, “but I was trying to play through it. I came down the next possession, to threw a cross-court pass and couldn’t get anything behind it. I figured if I can’t pass, I’m going to hurt my team.”
Price entered the game averaging career highs of 9.1 points and 5.2 assists and was making his 15th start – five times more than he had in three seasons in Indiana – as a fill in for Wall. If Wall is able to come back some time this month, as the Wizards have targeted, Price’s opportunity is probably lost for good.
“It’s been all I can ask for. I have, Coach [Randy] Wittman has given me every opportunity to come out here and prove myself and show what I can do. So I’m grateful for that,” Price said. “It’s very difficult right now, but I’m okay. I bounce back. It’s not a season ending or anything like that. So I have to keep my head high and I have a chance to be back.”
Wittman said Price will see a hand specialist on Monday but the latest injury creates a dilemma for the Wizards, who are down to just one healthy point guard on the roster in Shaun Livingston.
Only 11 of the Wizards’ 15 players are healthy and the team is still paying point guards Jannero Pargo and Shelvin Mack significant portions of their salaries.
Few alternatives are available on the free agent market to warrant cutting someone on the current and paying them, but the Wizards brought in two potential candidates on Sunday in Ben Uzoh and Blake Ahearn, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, which would likely put seldom-used big man Earl Barron in danger of losing his job.
Yahoo! Sports first reported that the Wizards worked out Uzoh on Sunday, which was later confirmed by a league source. Uzoh is averaging 17.8 points for the Springfield Armor of the NBA Development League but spent the past two seasons averaging four points and 2.2 assists in 60 games for New Jersey, Cleveland and Toronto.
Ahearn, 28, is currently a free agent after being cut by the Indiana Pacers in training camp. He has career averages of 4.6 points and 2.1 assists in 19 career games spread out over three seasons with Miami, San Antonio and Utah.
Jordan Crawford is a playmaker, but his primary instinct is to score. Either way, Crawford will probably assume the duties as the replacement to Wall’s replacement to share the backcourt with Bradley Beal after leading the Wizards with 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in the loss to Golden State.
“It’s tough, definitely tough. Unexpected. Hopefully we can pull together for him,” Crawford said of Price. “I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team win, simple as that.”
Price has been one of the more upbeat players in the locker room all season. He was joking with Chris Singleton as he got dressed after the game. He struggled to get his right arm through his sleeve and Singleton commented, “You can’t even dress yourself.”
Price laughed, then stuck his arm through as Singleton shook his head. He hates to go down with the team’s fortunes with the record and injuries getting worse. “It does leave kind of a salty taste in the mouth because of that reason, we haven’t been 100 percent all at the same time,” Price said. “It’s difficult right now, but it’s a long season. We have to get ourselves right, so we can get on the court and get out there together.”