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The point for Timberwolves' Foye is patience

MINNEAPOLIS -- If Randy Foye toted a conductor's baton and wore a tuxedo to work rather than a mesh singlet, you'd swear he knows every note and instrument in the orchestra.

MINNEAPOLIS -- If Randy Foye toted a conductor's baton and wore a tuxedo to work rather than a mesh singlet, you'd swear he knows every note and instrument in the orchestra.

You might wonder, however, if he can truly feel the music.

These Timberwolves, who open their 20th season Wednesday, without question are Al Jefferson's team, but the franchise has entrusted the directing to Foye, an explosive scorer who must show in his third season he can master the tone, nuance and shadings required from winning NBA point guards.

"I never knew who said I didn't," Foye said when asked about his progress learning the position. "I call the majority of our plays."

Randy Wittman has allowed him the freedom to do so in many instances, and he calls Foye's transition from prolific collegiate scorer to a pro point guard a process that is ever "evolving."


"That's when your team gets good," Wittman said. "When you have a quarterback out on the floor who knows what you want, so I don't have to stand up and call every play. He's still got a ways to go. He still has to work at it, but he is working at it."

Up and down start

His first two NBA seasons proved inconclusive. Thrilled to play alongside Kevin Garnett his rookie season, Foye demonstrated he doesn't fear failure by scoring nearly half of all his points in fourth quarters and overtimes.

Stunned and discouraged when Garnett was traded the following summer, he limped through his second NBA season physically and emotionally, missing the first three months because of a troublesome injury and adapting to a completely deconstructed team that won three times in the season's first seven weeks without him.

While Foye waited for a developing crack in his kneecap to heal, Portland's Brandon Roy -- for whom Foye was traded on draft night in 2006 -- played his way to the cusp of stardom.

"I was just free my rookie year," Foye said. "Coming into my second year, I felt a lot of pressure because I knew I was one of the key guys after (Garnett) was gone. When I got injured, I took it tough. The team was struggling so bad, I wanted to play so bad, a lot of times I was in tears when I went home at night time."

He missed last season's first 43 games. In retrospect, he now considers his return too soon because he didn't approach his rookie season form until nearly April. His best play coincided with the Wolves' best during a season when he was out until late January and the other point guard, Sebastian Telfair, missed the final six weeks because of an injured ankle.

Telfair is 23 and Foye turned 25 last month, so the Wolves kept veteran free-agent point guard Kevin Ollie when they cut their roster to the maximum 15 players Thursday. Ollie's experience was valued both because he can mentor two young teammates at his position and because Telfair is suspended for the season's first three games.


Feel for the spot

Ollie has offered both players defensive pointers and he has shared with Foye his thoughts on what he calls an understanding of timing and pace at the position that only comes with both "innate talent" and experience.

"Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, those guys have perfect tempo," Ollie said, referring to three of the game's most influential point guards. "They know where they want to go, and they always get to their spots and they make plays. Playing point guard is all about knowing players on the court, knowing when to push and when to back off. It's all about having a sense of tempo and rhythm."

Guards such as Nash and Paul play with the basketball in their hands almost at all times, a style, Ollie acknowledged, Foye cannot play because of Jefferson.

"Al's down there and he needs the ball, so you have to play through him," Ollie said. "Our dynamic is a little different than New Orleans with Chris Paul or Phoenix with Steve Nash."

Foye's task will require him to learn when to use his size and strength to create for himself and when to create for teammates. Unhappy with the play of both Foye and Telfair during a preseason game in Chicago, Wittman held a one-hour film session the next day imploring both to be more aggressive and creative. He also implored Foye to rely less on the three-point shot and use its threat to break down opposing defenses and create open shots for teammates.

Two days later, Foye delivered a 15-assist, two-turnover game against Denver.

"The bad part about that," Jefferson said with a smirk, "is now Coach knows he can do that."


And that's just fine, Foye says.

"That's what I can do," he said. "On a nightly basis, you can count on me for between seven and 11 assists and between 16 and 22 points, easy. And also rebound and guard the best point guard on the other team."

Time to bloom

To get there, Wittman wants the player who has the ball in his hands to also have his voice heard the most on the court. Jefferson is the team's franchise player. Mike Miller, Kevin Love, Rashad McCants and Corey Brewer are valuable complementary pieces. But the rebuilt Wolves might never become what Kevin McHale and Glen Taylor envisioned when they dealt Garnett unless Foye blossoms.

"He's a good kid, sometimes he's almost too good of a kid," Wittman said. "There's got to be a time when you kick a teammate in the seat of his pants; there's a time to be emotional. His personality doesn't draw that right now. Ideally, you'd like your point guard to be that guy. You look at the Magic Johnsons and the Isiah Thomases and all the great point guards who had the ability to do that, their teams were pretty good.

"This is the time (Foye's third season) that you start to come into your own as a player, who you are and what you're capable of doing. He's going to show us that, even if you have some bumps here and there."

Foye credits what he calls "my situation" for making him a player and person -- humble, hard working, resilient -- who can bounce back from some bumps, and far more. His father was killed in a motorcycle accident when he was 3. His mother stepped into a van one day and rode away forever a couple of years later. He was raised by a tapestry of good people, including a grandmother, that kept Newark's tough streets from "swallowing me up."

"I was never given things," said Foye, who has the image of his mother tattooed on his chest. "I had to work for them. That's what I'm doing here, working. I know Witt believes in me. I believe in myself. The biggest thing is, I'm growing as a leader. I'm going to keep working."


This season, unlike a year ago, he claims to feel no pressure because of the players assembled around him.

"I've got Mike Miller, Big Al next to me," Foye said. "I've got (Ryan) Gomes, Sebastian, Craig Smith, Kevin Ollie, all these veterans. It just feels like we have a team with that group, and that's how I played in college. I just love the situation I'm in right now. With my shooting ability and my athleticism, I can make anything happen with these great players around me."

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