Scene: February 9th, 2011 - cold winter night in New York City - father and son seated in the nose bleed section of Madison square garden to see Amar’e Stoudemire take on Blake Griffin. After the starting line-ups were introduced……
Son: You know, the starting two-guard for the clippers is Randy Foye. He went to Villanova and is from Newark.
Father: Is that important?
Son: Well, we played against him (when I was at St. John’s) and he is a local kid.
Father: Did you beat him?
This non-fictional scene foreshadows the player on the court that would have the most impact down the stretch of the recent Knicks/Clippers game. Who would have guessed, Randy Foye, a local kid from Newark, New Jersey, would steal the spotlight from the marquee power forward match-up? Finishing with a team high 24 points, 17 of which came in the fourth quarter, Foye dominated down the stretch. He led the Clippers to a 116-108 victory.
I was on hand to watch all of this and simply marvel at it. What amazed me most wasn’t the climatic ending. It was the dramatic finish by Foye after a fairly tumultuous beginning. But such is great drama. I sat there watching Foye, the once number seven pick in the draft, out of sync and without confidence for three quarters. I watched him miss shot after shot, turn the ball over on an ally-oop pass (prompting coach Vinny Del Negro to mouth “what is he doing?” and proceed to sub him out of the game). I watched him turn the ball over against the knick press. I watched his own teammate, rookie Eric Bledsoe, severely out play him and wondered how long it would be before he replaced him all together in the line-up. I wondered what would happen to him when Eric Gordon returned from his injury? And finally, I simply wondered what happened to Randy Foye? How did he go from so much promise, so much potential coming out of school (Jay Bilas thought he would be the next Dwanye Wade), to this? At the end of the third quarter, I just chalked it up to another tragedy. Another story about a great kid, a great talent, falling from grace, losing his place. Another example of how important confidence is, and how society (the NBA) can beat you down and take it away. And once you lose it, it’s gone baby gone.
Let’s just say in the fourth quarter I switched the channel and started watching The Fighter. Everyone loves a magnificent comeback story (except in this case the knicks). It was rather incredulous how quickly it happened. The knicks cut a 20 point third quarter deficit to 3, on the verge of their own comeback. Un-assumingly, Foye counters with a contested lay-up high off the glass. After his play in previous quarters, it took guts to take, and make that shot. Next time down, Foye hits a 15-foot jumper from the corner. And then all of a sudden, as if he just needed to see the ball go in the basket two times in a row, the bell goes off and he starts to attack with multiple shots to the body of the knicks. And dig this, as if cheering him on from the corner of the ring, the Clippers actually run isolation pick and roll plays for him. For the finale sequence, he comes off a screen and Amar’e switches, with his hand down. So he makes a three in his face. Next play, same switch. So Foye steps back getting Amar’e to jump and he blows by him to set up DeAndre Jordan to get fouled going to the basket. And finally, same screen and roll, same switch, same blow by, although now confronted with help from the middle. Foye lofts up a pass of perfection to Blake Griffin to slam it down from the weak side. Game over. Yeah, I suppose Del Negro wasn’t mouthing “what is he doing?” that time.
How you like me know?
1) How much of an amazing player do you have to be to play in the NBA, I mean really? We’re talking about a guy who up into this point was having, what most would consider a disappointing career (although he is only in his fifth season and still young), someone who probably isn’t the focus of the opposing team’s scouting report, someone who might not be playing that much if it weren’t for an injury……someone who didn’t look good at all through the first three quarters. And then all of a sudden, this dude just kills in the fourth and no one could stop him.
I read a local paper the following day. Naturally upset at the knicks, they found it hard to believe they let “a journeyman in Randy Foye dominate them down the stretch.” This journalist just doesn’t get it. If you are in the NBA, you are nice, end of story. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you get an opportunity and some confidence, and if the time is right, you will get buckets, or do whatever it is you do best that got you there.
This kid was one of the best players coming out of college, the number seven pick in the draft and before Eric Gordon’s injury was relegated to the bench. That’s how good you have to be to play in the NBA.
2) Randy Foye embodies what it means to be a true professional and the type of mental fortitude that is required to make it at a high professional level (NBA). How can you play pretty bad most of the game, have your teammates and coach question you and still have the belief and confidence in yourself to take over the game down the stretch? Especially when you are in the precarious position of playing due to an injury and having a rookie begin to outplay you for that open spot. I will say, it is amazing how important confidence is, what it can do, and how something simple (a lay-up off a broken play) can instill it – but that is another story. Being a professional is producing when your number is called, regardless of the circumstance or prior set of events. And maybe it’s that simple, detaching the emotion, the pressure, and just knowing that it’s your job to keep playing and keep being aggressive.
3) I have to give props to Coach Negro and the Foye’s teammates, especially Baron Davis and Eric Bledsoe. For coach Negro to keep him in the game down the stretch and run screen and roll isolations for him. Wow. Good for him to stick to his gun. Having someone in your corner, both literally and figuratively, makes a difference. Baron Davis had around 14 points and 14 assists through three quarters. He finished with 16 and 16. Why? Because he deferred to Foye in the fourth, and didn’t mind doing so. He looked to set him up when he had the ball and got out of the way when he didn’t. And finally, Bledsoe, who had 15 points and 7 rebounds through three quarters. Who outplayed Foye, and is directly competing with him for playing time. He could have easily pouted on the bench, but instead was the first out of his seat jumping and cheering as Foye made big play after play down the stretch. That is what being a team and a family is all about. I don’t care what their history (or record) is.
Foye is a talented basketball player, and apparently a great person. From my quick assessment, he is not a point guard, although he is shorter that Davis. He is not a spot up shooter either. He is the type of player who needs the ball in his hands so he can dribble a few times and dance around to find his rhythm and groove. Then, he becomes the type player that can make plays and beat you. Like most people, especially in the NBA, he just needs an honest shot at the title. I came to the garden that night with my dad hoping to see the knicks win. But to be honest, as a player and coach myself, I couldn’t help but root for the local kid in the fourth. Foye got his shots and he made them. It was a story fitting of Hollywood, or at least a team from L.A.