A.J. Price broke his shooting hand and came back a better shooter.
Price has increased his season high in each of his past two games since returning from a fractured fourth metatarsal, notching 16 points in a win over Atlanta and 18 in a win over Orlando. Those two outings also account for one-third of his games shooting at least 50 percent from the floor this season.
No, Price didn’t go into the lab and return with bionic limbs or anything; he credits his latest scoring binge – he only had seven double-digit outings in his first 15 games – on studying film and figuring out ways to get the Wizards’ sputtering offense running smoothly.
“When I was out, I had a lot of opportunities to watch a lot of basketball, watch our team, see what we were lacking, see what I could do. So that helped me a lot,” said Price, whose previous season high was 15 points on Nov. 7 in Boston. “As much as I wanted to help my team, I knew I couldn’t do anything without my right hand, so I was just watching. And I’ve always been a student of the game.”
Price missed 15 games because of his broken hand and is basically holding the starting point guard position until John Wall is healthy and ready to reclaim his spot, but the fourth-year veteran isn’t sweating his pending demotion.
“I knew coming into the season that it was going to happen at some point, that John was going to come back and most likely, I was going to back him up. So, I already knew that,” he said. “With that being said, it was nothing unexpected. I just wanted to come in and make it tough on anybody for me not to get on the court.”
In his past three games since returning, Price is averaging 12.7 points on 48.1 percent shooting, doubled his average steals (1.7-0.8) and reduced his already low turnovers. He also matched his season high with three three-pointers against the Magic.
Wall has justifiably received a lot of credit for elevating the quality of play since coming back from a left patella stress injury. But Price has started both games since Wall debuted and has spared the former No. 1 overall pick from having to play at a super human level as he regains basketball conditioning.
Price had the highest plus-minus of any starter (plus-28) in the Wizards’ 120-91 victory against the Magic and has earned the praise of the opposing starting point guards in both wins.
Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said “getting John back is great for that organization, but it wasn’t only him. A.J. Price played a very good game, he controlled the tempo of the game. His decision-making was very veteran like, and his team rallied behind him and played with great intensity.”
Coach Randy WIttman credits Price for getting the players into their sets, pushing the tempo and maintaining control of the basketball. Price has had nine assists, four steals and just two turnovers in the past two games.
“He has played probably his best basketball these last couple of games — even his first game back, Oklahoma City, even though he was limited,” Wittman said. “He’s played really good. Under control. Shot selection has been really good. Just the ball movement, everything, I couldn’t be any more surprised by how good he’s playing coming off an injury.”