The two highest-profile newcomers on the Washington Wizards could not have carried themselves more differently at media day today. One strolled in wearing a pair of LeBron James sneakers, oblivious to the fact that his new teammates all hate James' guts. The other slipped in with an air of familiarity and confidence that made you think he was already an established member of the club.
But despite their different approaches, Randy Foye and Mike Miller both echoed the same message. Both are overjoyed to be out of Minnesota and on a team that has aspirations to contend next season.
"Everything is done first class here," Foye told reporters today. "When I came to do my press conference here, from the way I was picked up from the train station from Jersey, everything was first class. Everybody was so excited to have me here."
"It's a new beginning," Foye said. "That's the biggest thing."
Miller has spent three straight years playing for teams that won fewer than 25 games -- two years with the Memphis Grizzlies and last year with the Timberwolves. He says just having the chance to be a part of a team that expects to win is a luxury he hasn't had recently.
"This is exciting for me," he said. "I've been on teams the last couple years who were building for the future, and that's not any fun."
Miller's last season in Minnesota might have been his most painful of the three. After being acquired by the Timberwolves in the trade that sent Kevin Love to Minnesota and O.J. Mayo to Memphis, Miller was expected to provide leadership and potent outside scoring to compliment Love and budding star Al Jefferson.
Instead, Miller struggled through an ankle injury and literally stopped shooting. He attempted just 7.5 shots per game, significantly down from his career average of 11, and spilled his frustration to a Minnesota reporter that asked him about not shooting, saying "It's called basketball. James Naismith invented it a long time ago."
Miller declined to discuss last season in detail, saying only that "it is what it is right now, it's in the past," but when asked about what he could bring to the Wizards, he primarily discussed his ability to shoot.
"This year, my job is going to [be to] make sure people account for me, [to let people] know that you can't double off me when Caron [Butler], Antawn [Jamison] and Gilbert [Arenas get it going," he said. "You have to make a decision: do you want to double off me, or do you want to let those guys keep rolling?"
Miller has his defenders for last season, however, most notably his new coach, Flip Saunders, who watched the Timberwolves play a lot last year since he wasn't coaching.
"Everyone talks about how Mike [Miller] didn't have a great year, but he shot 47 percent from [two-point range] and 37 percent from three, which most two-guards would die for," the coach said last Tuesday. "He led the two guards in rebounding, and he's got one of the best playmaking values from the two or three spot."
This season, Miller said he's not concerned about whether he starts or not. When asked about his goals this season, he merely said "to have fun, enjoy basketball and win." He said all those years of losing in Memphis and Minnesota has convinced him to have a new outlook on his basketball career.
"All that stuff's [i.e. starting] is out the door for me. If you were in my shoes and you got beat up in this league the last three years, you just forget about all that stuff," Miller said. "I just want a fun year, I just want to enjoy myself. I want to come in here and know that every time we lace them up, there's a pretty good chance we're winning this game. That hasn't been the case in the past."
Foye's career has been about great expectations and so-so results. From the minute he was traded for Brandon Roy during draft day in 2006, Foye was expected to be a player that would bring the Timberwolves back to contention. The results have been mixed thus far. Foye has showed some flashes -- he was pretty solid as a rookie and had an excellent January this year -- but he hasn't shown anywhere close to the type of stardom Roy has displayed in Portland.
But now Foye is going to a Wizards team that won't require him to carry a large offensive load. It's something Foye said he relishes.
"There was a lot of pressure on my shoulders in Minnesota to be one of the guys to carry the team," Foye said. "But here, you have [Gilbert] Arenas, Caron [Butler] and [Antawn] Jamison to take the burden to get guys a lot of shots."
Foye said he expects to do a little of everything and singled out defense as something he didn't do as well in Minnesota, but will concentrate on doing more in D.C. due to the presence of other scorers. He also has people that are backing him, including the man that came with him in the draft-day trade.
"It's not Randy Foye's fault that he got traded for Brandon Roy," Miller said. "Brandon Roy's a great basketball player. Randy Foye's a great basketball player. Has Brandon Roy had a little more success now? Yeah. But that doesn't mean Randy Foye isn't a very good basketball player. The problem with expectations is, sometimes they're overbuilt. You start putting the onus on people that aren't fair."
Of course, the adversity Foye has dealt with on the court does not compare to what he has been through off the court. He was orphaned before he entered first grade and was raised primarily by his aunt and his basketball coaches. That type of adversity was not lost on Caron Butler, who also experienced a lot of hardships while growing up in Wisconsin.
"It shows a young fells that's very mature," Butler said. "When you're able to deal with adversity like that, it shows his resiliency. I'm happy to have somebody like that as part of this ballclub"
Happiness is an emotion that aptly describes how the Wizards' other two stars -- Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison -- feel about the presence of Foye and Miller. True of their styles, Arenas focused on the on-court benefits of Foye and Miller, while Jamison extolled their intangibles.
"We finally have some flat [out] shooters," Arenas said. "The only shooters we had [before] were 'Twan and D-Steve. [Now], we have Mike Miller who can hit that shot, and we have another playmaker in Randy [Foye]."
"We need somebody like Mike [Miller] who played in the playoffs before who’s a true veteran that will work hard and do whatever’s asked of him to do [without] making excuses," Jamison said. "Randy Foye is another guy who’s young, but he works, man, and that’s what this organization needs. We need guys who are going to sacrifice, guys who don’t care about numbers, we need guys who are going to have one common goal, which is to win basketball games and make this a championship-caliber team."
It's certainly a new situation for Foye and Miller, one that they may not have experienced in some time. But ask Miller whether he is concerned that the two of them will be able to adjust to playing smaller roles for a winning team, and he has absolutely no doubts.
"When you get on new teams, your roles change. That's what's fun," he said. "I have no problem with that [and] I don't think [Randy] will either. We'll be all about winning."