The Washington Wizards entered the NBA lottery in May hoping to get the No. 2 pick of the draft so they could select Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio. But they instead landed the fifth pick, and Tuesday - with the belief that he wouldn't be on the board by the time they drafted - they shipped the pick to Minnesota as part of a package deal that brought in guard Randy Foye and swingman Mike Miller.
Roughly 45 minutes before Minnesota made the selection, the Wizards introduced Miller and Foye, pieces they expect to bolster their backcourt depth and help them rise to the ranks of contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Acquired in exchange for the No. 5 pick, Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila and Oleksiy Pecherov, Miller and Foye embraced an exit from the downtrodden Timberwolves. And with the Wizards apparently healthy after last season's injury-plagued 19-63 campaign, Foye and Miller anticipate helping turn the team around.
"I've accomplished a lot in my career," said Miller, the 2001 rookie of the year and the top sixth man of 2006. "I know who I am. I've averaged 17, 18 points a game some seasons, I've done this, I've done that. But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. The great players are remembered for playing on great teams. And now I want to win. I work too hard not to win."
Miller averaged double digits each of his first eight seasons in the league before seeing his scoring dip to 9.9 points a game last season for the 22-win Timberwolves. Miller, who for his career has shot 40.6 percent from 3-point range, said he played more of a facilitator role in 2008-09, which caused the decline. However, he said he expects that experience to serve him well in the District, where he must complement All-Stars Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison.
"It'll be fun," Miller said. "There will be games when Randy and I go off for 20, 25 points in addition to what Gilbert and those guys do. It's going to be fun. Teams won't be locked in on us; they'll be locked in on them. We're ready to work hard and do whatever we can to help this team win."
For Foye, it marked another draft night of change; he was traded twice on draft night in 2006. The Boston Celtics selected him seventh overall and shipped him to the Portland Trailblazers. Later that night, Portland shipped him to Minnesota for Brandon Roy, who earned rookie of the year honors. That pitted Foye in a situation where he regularly heard himself compared with Roy by Minnesota fans.
But Foye began to silence the critics with a breakout 2008-09 campaign, averaging 16.3 points and 4.3 assists. But his growth didn't help his team win. So he embraces joining a Wizards squad that expects to return to the playoffs.
"I definitely excited to be coming to Washington," Foye said. "The biggest thing is to win. Just to play alongside Gilbert Arenas. And I'm aiming to do what I need to do to get him his fair amount of shots, then if they need me to score, I'll score. The main thing is winning, and I'm willing to sacrifice my game to be successful and I know I'm going to have fun doing it. I sacrificed my game last season, and we weren't winning. You sacrifice on a winning team, and you know it's worth it."
The Wizards drafted Central Florida guard Jermaine Taylor with the 32nd pick but traded it to Houston for cash considerations. Although Rubio dropped to fifth overall and despite the fact that Washington came away from draft night without a prospect, team president Ernie Grunfeld said there was no disappointment on the team's end.
"We wouldn't have done anything different. The only player I would've been upset if he slipped to five was Blake Griffin, and he went No. 1 overall obviously," Grunfeld said. "We wouldn't have taken anybody but Blake Griffin if it came to this pick. Ricky Rubio, Tyreke Evans, James Harden - we liked all those players, and everybody else did. But if we had a chance to get Miller and Foye in exchange for that pick, there was no question about it."
The Wizards now have seven guards, and the starting lineup of Arenas at the point, Jamison at power forward, Butler at small forward and Brendan Haywood at center is penciled in. But shooting guard and the key two or three rotation spots are up for grabs, a situation coach Flip Saunders said benefits the Wizards.
"We made a drastic improvement of our roster, and we made movements that's going to make it difficult for teams to guard us," Saunders said. "Now we have guys that can play multiple positions. If we had guys that play only one position, I think we should be concerned. But we'll see what happens when they get out and compete. The players have to get out, there work hard and do what's best for the team."