Wizards add veteran free agent point guard
John Wall said at the end of last season that he thought the Wizards needed a veteran point guard as his backup. On Tuesday the team added one with only one more year of experience than Wall, signing 6-foot-2 free agent A.J. Price to a one-year deal worth the veteran's minimum.
Price, who was drafted out of Connecticut in the second round in 2009, averaged 6.0 points and 2.0 assists in three years with the Indiana Pacers and has a career shooting percentage of 30.9 from 3-point range. He averaged 7.3 points as a rookie but saw his role and numbers lessen in each of the last two seasons, particularly after Indiana acquired Leandro Barbosa in March.
"A.J. is an experienced and dependable player who fits in well with the mix of proven veterans and young players we have on our roster," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement. "Adding him will help to bring depth to our backcourt rotation."
Price, 25, arrives on the heels of a middling performance in five Las Vegas Summer League games by Shelvin Mack, who also struggled at times handling the ball as Wall's rookie backup last year. In Las Vegas, Mack averaged 11.0 points per game but finished with more turnovers (3.4 per game) than assists (2.4 per game). The Wizards also brought second-round pick Tomas Satoransky to Nevada. But the 20-year-old Czech point guard was drafted over a number of older and more experienced college players with the expectation that he'd remain in Europe this season. Averaging 4.4 points, 1.8 assists and 2.2 turnovers in summer league, Satoransky didn't cause Washington to re-evaluate its plans.
"Looking at the roster, I can see that the backup point guard position was a need," Price said. "I think I have the opportunity to come in and play and contribute right away."
It helped that the market for available guards was shrinking. Among potential targets, John Lucas III wasn't prepared for a veteran's minimum deal, Kirk Hinrich wasn't a realistic option after his unsettled experience in Washington, and the Wizards couldn't wait for the potential availability of Houston's Shaun Livingston.
"I believe my biggest asset to any team is my leadership," said Price, whose favorite player is Chauncey Billups.
Price feels the Wizards' roster was similar to the team he joined in Indiana. After a four-year absence, the Pacers have been to the postseason the last two years.
"It's helped me greatly because it's made me hungry, made me thirsty again," Price said of losing his minutes in Indiana's rotation. "It's made me want to get back to where I know I can be. That's what I plan to do this year. I plan to play like I've never played before."
To gain insight on playing for coach Randy Wittman, Price said he spoke to former Wizards guard Mike James -- both are natives of Amityville, N.Y.
"[James] said, 'He's a tough coach but he's going to let you play, let you play the game,'?" Price said. "That was important for me to hear, to know that his style of coaching was like that."