By Brian Spencer
As recently as the start of last season, Randy Foye was still considered a solid NBA prospect with All-Star potential. Along with Al Jefferson, he was in the thick of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ rebuilding process, and at times had flashed enough talent, enough hope, to convince even the long-skeptical T’Wolves faithful that he just might be the real deal.
That, perhaps, the draft-day deal that saw Kevin McHale trade Brandon Roy to Portland for Foye might, actually, not be as lopsided as we all thought. We thought that the Foye-led Timberwolves were turning a corner and a lot better than their wins and losses record. But they weren’t, Foye reverted back to his inconsistent, mostly ineffective ways, and the time finally came when for ardent supporter Mr. Thell to sadly admit that the Foye Experiment was just another failure during the sad Kevin McHale Era:
There is some understandable trepidation involved in dismissing these two, especially Foye, for a handful of mediocre-to-meaningless role players and a draft pick. I’ll admit to being slightly shocked, and momentarily disheartened, upon hearing the news. After all, Randy Foye was the 7th overall pick just three years ago, the same day he was traded for Brandon Roy. Between injuries, poor decisions and poor shooting he’s shown flashes of brilliance over the last three years and was considered one of the franchise’s more significant building blocks.
I wanted Foye to be a building block just like every other Wolves fan, but wanting it doesn’t make it so. Facing an almost blank slate once again, especially after doing so for so many lean years, is a scary proposition. And a disheartening one. It’s not fun. But it had to be done.
The deal that sent Foye to Washington showed two things: one, that the T’Wolves had (obviously) given up on their ’06 lottery pick, and second, that his long-term prospects to be a special player in this league had significantly dimmed. The Wizards wanted to see what he could do in a new environment, but all things considered, assuming a healthy backcourt, he wouldn’t be doing much more than fighting for scraps behind Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, and probably a few other Wizards.
As fate would have it, though, Foye has gotten another chance at career redemption. Arenas is probably done in Washington, the team is no longer entertaining real playoff hopes, and suddenly the minutes and opportunity are there, just like they were for 3 years in Minnesota, for Foye to prove he can play at a high level and has a spot somewhere in the bottom half of the league’s second tier of players.
The early returns, at least on the stat sheet, are a step in the right direction.
More on Randy Foye’s new role in Washington after the break…
In three seasons with the Timberwolves, Foye averaged 13.2 points (42% FG), 3.7 assists, 3 boards, 0.8 steals, and 2 turnovers per; his team posted a combined 78-159 record in that span, though he missed 55 of those games and, of course, you can’t pin it all on him. (I am, however, fairly comfortable with you pinning it all on McHale.)
His stats had dipped by nearly half, along with his minutes, during this his first season in Washington, and it looked like he was being fast tracked into relative obscurity as one of these guys who sticks around the league for a decade but never finds even a semi-permanent home. He’s a restricted free agent next year, and at the moment he’s not exactly an in-demand name brand.
Foye can still change that. I hope he does. I pulled for him during his three seasons in Minnesota, and I’ve seen what he can do, albeit in sporadic fits and spurts and false starts. He’s been thrust into the starting lineup for a team that’s now more concerned about saving face than it is winning, which is tricky for the players left cleaning up the mess on the court, Foye included. Yeah, you can put up big stats when there’s little to play for and you’re on the floor for 36+ minutes a night, but if the team keeps racking up the losses… there’s sometimes a stigma there.
We’ll see about the wins, but in four games since Arenas’ debacle and suspension Foye has been pretty good: 20.2 points (48% FG), 6.5 assists, 3.7 boards, and 2 turnovers. Improvements on his previous body of work, but still a very, very small sample size. The Wizards are also 1-3 in this stretch, though that includes losses to the Cavaliers and Magic… but then, also, the Pistons, who had lost 13 games straight before defeating Foye’s Wizards in Washington 99-90.
Foye’s window to be counted on as a significant franchise building block have passed; his chance to be a key, productive, clutch part of a team’s rotation has not. But he turns 27 later this year, and the waves of new talent joining the league mercilessly continue. Time is running out. We’re pulling for him.
Randy Foye Photo Credit: Icon SMI