- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2009

When the Washington Wizards acquired combo guard Randy Foye as part of the deal that shipped the No. 5 pick in the draft to Minnesota, they envisioned he would be a key contributor to their 2009-10 redemption campaign.

But instead of serving as a reliable - and often explosive - sixth man, Foye has been reduced to spot-duty player/cheerleader.

Foye started the season as Gilbert Arenas’ top backup but also thrived while playing alongside Arenas, sharing ball-handling duties for stretches. Through seven games, Foye was averaging a solid 12.8 points and 3.2 assists in 29 minutes a game.

But then in the eighth game, Foye badly sprained his right ankle. The Wizards picked up Earl Boykins the next day, and the 5-foot-5 spark plug became an instant favorite of coach Flip Saunders. Foye was healthy again two games later but never reclaimed his old job.

In the 16 games since coming back from injury, Foye has averaged just 4.3 points in 10.4 minutes a game. Boykins, meanwhile, got off to a hot start with the Wizards and even briefly led them in fourth-quarter scoring. He is averaging 8.8 points and 3.3 assists in 19.4 minutes off the bench. In the past week, Boykins’ production and minutes have started to tail off as Saunders has started DeShawn Stevenson and frequently called on Nick Young off the bench. Foye has continued to be passed over in the rotation.

Foye, who boasts a team-best .973 free throw shooting percentage, has found the new role difficult to adjust to because he had established himself as a scorer and go-to guy late in games in his previous four seasons.

“It’s tough because that’s my MO since I’ve been here [in the NBA], even in my rookie year with [Kevin Garnett]: In the fourth quarter, I’d be scoring and being able to contribute,” Foye said Saturday night. “And early on here, I was able to contribute in the fourth quarter. Against Dallas, me and Gil went off. It’s just tough sometimes, but at the same time I try to cheer my teammates on and let them know they were in my situation and now I’m in their situation.”

When he has gotten into games - usually at some point in the first half - he has come in cold and tended to force things. Then comes the hook, and he generally has watched the rest of the game.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Foye said when asked what caused him to fall out of favor with Saunders. “I got hurt, and Earl came in and played well. I tip my hat to him. I don’t ask no questions; I just come to work every day, just play as hard as I can, work out extra and I know how this league is: My time will come. It will change for me. I just have to keep working.”

Saunders said there are a few reasons for Foye’s falling out of the rotation but that he has a chance to work his way back into the mix by doing a few simple things.

“He’s had a couple tough things. One, Earl has come in and played well, and so [Foye] hasn’t gotten much time at [point guard], and two, we went with DeShawn to get a defensive presence to make sure our main guys knew at the beginning of games that they were going to get their shots, which I think has worked well. And then Nick has played well,” Saunders said. “The best thing for a guy like that is to do the little things: defend, get a rebound, get a loose ball, get to the free throw line, you knock down a couple points. Doing little things will get you big results.”

Given that the Wizards decided not to extend Foye’s contract in November, meaning he will be a free agent in the summer, and that he needs playing time to show his worth, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he voiced his displeasure or demanded playing time. Instead, he continues to carry himself as if he still has a key role on the team.

“It’s tough, a player like him who’s in his contract year and never knows when he’s going to play. But he’s happy,” Arenas said. “When he plays he’s happy, and even if he doesn’t play, he’s happy. He’s being a professional and knows that whenever his number is called, he’ll be ready to go. [I tell him] it’s a long season. Anything can happen; just be ready all the time.”

And Foye has. Saturday night with the game well out of hand and the Wizards poised to suffer their 17th loss and seventh in the last eight outings, Foye logged 19 minutes and recorded 13 points and a team-high four assists. The Wizards lost 121-95 to the Suns, so Foye didn’t find satisfaction in his outing.

“It felt good to get out there and get up and down, but I’m a team player first,” Foye said. “No matter what I did out there today, no matter if I got more time in the past, I want to get a win. I always want to win, but tonight was not a good effort from us. So I would rather us win the game and me not be playing than to play and us losing.”

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