WATERBURY — A.J. Price knows who he is, knows what he can bring to a basketball team. And he believes he'll get another chance.
"It's just like last year," Price said Sunday after scoring 33 points in a Greater Hartford Pro-Am game. "This is just a waiting game for me, a waiting process. But there's nothing wrong with that, I just have to hold up my end, which I'm trying to do now by staying in shape, playing basketball, sharpening my skills. Hopefully, I'll get that call."
Price, 28, who will join other former Huskies at Jim Calhoun's Charity All-Star Classic at Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday, has become an NBA journeyman — a solid, seasoned performer for hire. He hooked on with the Wizards in 2012, and again with the Timberwolves last season, but was waived in April. A veteran of 235 NBA games, he is a free agent again.
"When you're coming out of college and you're preparing yourself for the NBA," he said, "you realize you have a shot to play in the NBA, you never really realize or understand how your career is going to turn out. So it's hard gauge what you're going to be. Now, just finishing my fifth year, I kind of have an idea of how my career is going at this point."
Price was at UConn from 2004-09 and was suspended for the 2005-06 season after being charged in connection with stolen laptops at the school.He overcame a life-threatening brain hemorrhage, and later a torn ACL, finishing his career in the Final Four, averaging 13 points and 4.7 assists across 99 games.
"He just never quit," said Kevin Kirksey, who has coached Price in the pro-am since 2004. "To go through all that and still be playing basketball at the NBA level? He's got to be tough. He has a beautiful basketball mind — his IQ is off the charts. That's why he sticks in the league; they can't get rid of him."
Picked in the second round by the Pacers in 2009, he was their backup point guard for three years and had the same role in Washington. He signed with the T-Wolves last Sept. 30, on the eve of training camp. He appeared in 28 games, averaging 1.6 points.
"I want to thank Minnesota for giving me the opportunity to come in and make the team," Price said. "And I fought my butt off to do that. Going into the season, I knew where I stood as far as the depth chart, I was going to be the third point guard. Coach Rick Adelman told me to be ready if somebody got hurt. Nobody got hurt and I didn't get a chance to play, but that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes."
Over his career, Price has averaged 15.3 minutes, 5.3 points and 2.2 assists. He drives from his home in New York to play in the pro-am, this year for Team Eblens; he's working to get his legs in shape for a chance to go to another training camp. On Sunday, he scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, leading his team back from an 11-point deficit, providing the lead with a spectacular three-point play with 2:08 left and making critical free throws down the stretch. Eblens stayed alive in the playoff chase with a 112-110 win over Pauly Chute Slamm.
"That's my former teammate," said Stanley Robinson, who had 11 points and eight rebounds for Slamm. "He looked like he wasn't even playing for real, and he was still dropping buckets. He's always going to do real well."
Price has learned the art of the NBA journeyman from the master: UConn coach Kevin Ollie, who played for 11 franchises in 12 different cities, but lasted 13 seasons in the NBA.
"It was imperative for me to talk to guys like Kevin Ollie," Price said, "who I had a great relationship with before I was in the NBA. It's funny, our careers are similar — changing teams, year to year, one year deals, so talking to a guy like that, and being around myself, I know what you have to do as one of those guys. You're looked at as a veteran, you have to bring leadership, you have to bring toughness, you have to bring camaraderie. Those are three things I try to pride myself on whenever I get to a new team.
"That's how they keep you in the league. Because, let's be honest, there'd be a million guys who could do that job, who would want that job. You have to show them that at the end of the day, you want it still, and it means a lot to you."
Cody Bayne scored 26 for Eblens, and Rob McKiver 27 for Slamm. In the other game Sunday, Tobin Carberry scored 35 to lead Deron Freeman All-Stars to a 114-94 win over Chris Baker All-Stars, despite 30 points from Kyle Wright.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun