By Ramona Shelburne
In the first hours and days after the Clippers acquired Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets last December, no fewer than half a dozen players had reason to be a little or a lot miffed. Half of those players -- Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu and Chris Kaman -- were on a bus for a charity function when they learned they were headed out of town on the first plane to New Orleans, so at the very least whatever bruised feelings weren't the Clippers problem anymore.
Who else had cause for consternation? Point guard Mo Williams had spent the offseason fashioning himself into a team leader. Chauncey Billups had spent last season hearing about Paul as savior of the New York Knicks, only to see him become the savior of the Clippers just when he was making peace with being claimed off waivers when he preferred to become a free agent?
Then there was Randy Foye. From the outside, on the list of guys whose ego needed to be soothed after the trade, he barely registers. But within the Clippers organization, there was genuine concern.
Foye had accepted less money to sign with the Clippers in the summer of 2010 because he thought he'd have a defined role. He chose them as much as they chose him. And in his first season with the club, he filled that role well: Be a solid character guy, push young guard Eric Gordon, score off the bench, don't rock the boat.
Now, with his contract up at the end of the season, Foye was relegated to fourth-string duty. The backup behind Paul, Billups and Williams.
General manager Neil Olshey told me more than once how he felt bad that the trades put Foye in this situation after he'd had the same thing happen to him in Minnesota (when it made a run on guards in the 2009 draft) and Washington (when it landed the right to pick John Wall in the 2010 draft).
But Foye took it as he always has.
"There really wasn't time [to get upset]," he said after his six 3-pointers keyed the Clippers 107-98 win over the Hornets on Sunday night. "To tell you the truth I wasn't looking for a pep talk. I'm a grown man. I understand that things happen. This is a crazy league. My whole thing is that I was going to continue to work no matter what."
A lot of players say things like that when put in situations like Foye was. Very few of them really mean it.
And after what he's been through elsewhere -- the Clippers are his fifth organization since being drafted fifth overall out of Villanova in 2006 -- this was just another thing that could have made Foye salty.
It just didn't.
"I think it's just where I'm at now," he said. "All that stuff from the past is history. I want to win. And I want to be the best player I can be, and the best player I can to help this team."
For the first two months of the year that meant staying ready and staying quiet. But after Billups was lost for the season to a torn Achilles, that meant starting.
"I just kind of stayed with it," he said. "I continued to work and understood that -- while you never want injuries to happen -- with the condensed schedule, games every single day, that you had to be ready no matter what."
Instead of pouting, he worked on his outside shot. A lot.
"Thousands of shots,'' he said, shaking his head. "All the time after practice."
Foye has made a career-high 123 3-pointers this seasons, and Sunday evening he hit six those 3s, including three consecutive 3s as they rallied in the fourth quarter in a game they had to have to maintain home court advantage in the first-round of the playoffs.
What does this season mean for Foye going forward? He is, after all, in the last year of a two-year, $8.5 million deal with the team.
"I really don't think about that stuff. It's written," he said. "Whatever is going to happen is going to happen.
"I think I've done enough this year [to prove himself as an NBA player]. But I think I still have a lot more work, too. I still have a lot more things that I can and will get better at."