Foye shines as Clippers continue hot streak

April 2, 2012

DALLAS — As each long jumper left the hands of Randy Foye and nestled through the net, those dulcet sounds landed differently on the ears of the Clippers.

To them, it sounded like a hammer – one that pounded nails into the pine box holding the team that was rudderless, joyless and about to get its coach fired. That Clippers team looked long gone Monday night, when LA won its sixth consecutive game – its longest streak in 20 years – with a 94-75 thumping of the defending champion Dallas Mavericks.

If such an impressive victory proclaims the Clippers' arrival, once again, as Western Conference contenders, it is also not a bad way to walk into Wednesday's rumble with the Lakers, which could be for a share of the Pacific Division lead.

"We had a mind-set of, 'This isn't it, this isn't our team, this isn't the team we're going to be,'" Blake Griffin said of the Clippers' state of mind when they returned home 10 days ago after losing three in a row on the road amid a report that coach Vinny Del Negro had lost the team. "I'm proud of the way everybody's played."

The Clippers beamed most, though, over Foye, whose eight 3-pointers tied a franchise record and whose 28 points marked a season high. They mobbed him during a timeout after his final 3-pointer and playfully interrupted his interviews, chiding him for taking so many shots, 19, and tying, not breaking, the record.

But if there is anyone who is worthy of announcing the Clippers' revival, it is Foye, who has had one of his own.

Foye was to be the forgotten guard this season, finding a spot in the starting lineup only when Chris Paul was hurt, then Chauncey Billups was lost for the season, and more recently when Mo Williams was sidelined with a sprained toe. Then, when the Clippers suffered through three losses in three nights in three different cities before their win streak, it was a mostly forgettable trip for Foye.

He never left the bench in a loss at Indiana, and after scoring 23 points in a lopsided loss at Oklahoma City, he made just 1 of 14 shots in the loss to New Orleans.

Through it all, Foye kept the same even demeanor. As he sat on the bench in Indianapolis, his eyes hopeful when Del Negro would glance down the bench, he was disappointed but he did not stew. When a fan in New Orleans caught his attention late in the game, beseeching him to keep shooting, Foye smiled and said he would.

At times like that, he tries to recall a pet phrase of his coach at Villanova, Jay Wright: Shoot 'em up or sleep in the streets.

The message: "If you've had a good game, people love you. If not they're going to basically treat you like you're homeless and kick you out on the streets," Foye said. "You can't afford to dwell on anything. If I'm upset about a game that we had last night, we've got a game today. If that's on my shoulders when I walk in here, then I'm not being professional and being ready for this game. Whatever happens, I just let it go."

Throwing himself into the moment – and forgetting about what his role might be, or his status with the organization (his contract runs out this summer) – might be a mantra for many athletes. But it is easier to understand if it rings true with Foye, who had an extraordinarily rough upbringing in Newark, NJ.

His parents were both dead by the time he was 5 years old, his grandmother was an addict, and by the time he was a sophomore in high school, he had been incarcerated twice – for armed robbery and bringing a gun to school.

"I really struggled coming up," Foye said. "A lot of nights we didn't have a lot to eat. A lot of nights, we went to sleep with no heat in the house. I had to stay in shelters with my grandmother in downtown Newark. That's why I don't get rattled, because I know how blessed I am to be in this situation, just being in the NBA. So when I'm faced with a little bit of adversity, I never looked at it as [a reason to] get upset or turn my back on anyone. I just try to face it head on like I always do and be honest with myself and be honest with the situation."

That honest conversation after the New Orleans game – the worst shooting game of his career – was that he had to keep shooting. It is what Del Negro told him and his teammates, too – that with defenses throwing resources at Griffin and Chris Paul, with Billups and Williams hurt, and with Nick Young – the deadline acquisition made to replace him – not up to speed on the offense, they needed him.

"He was in a tough position, and what you do then is you fight," said Williams, who accompanied the team and hopes to return this Saturday against Sacramento. "You go back to what you do best and go down swinging. Ever since that road trip, he's been aggressive. He hasn't been thinking, he's just been playing. He's playing off his instincts and he's been playing at a high level."

Foye has shot 46 percent on 3-pointers (22 of 48) since then, including a critical 3-pointer on a kickout from Paul late in the fourth quarter of a 98-97 win over Portland, the Clippers' only win in their streak that has been closer than nine points.

"When we get that type of production from that position, obviously it changes the complexion of our team," Del Negro said.

On Monday, the volume of Foye's production was matched by his timing. When Dallas had sliced a 22-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to 76-62 with just less than eight minutes left, Foye hit a 3-pointer. Then, two possessions later, he hit another. When he missed, Griffin soared through the lane to slam home a rebound and Dallas never got closer than 17.

"I was waiting for somebody to knock him down, do something," said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, who was without Jason Kidd (groin) and Lamar Odom (illness). "We just didn't do it and that's on me."

Perhaps that tactic would work on some players. Or maybe it is simply a coach's frustration or desperation. But if Foye has perfected anything throughout this season, his career – and his life – it seems rather clear how he would respond to getting knocked down. He would pick himself up, and on nights like Monday, others, too.