A.J. Price's college career prepared him for just about anything, which is good. Because that's what his first season in the NBA has provided
A long way from the initial rush of just making the roster as a deep second-round pick, Price is back in the rotation, possibly for the rest of the season, hoping to make the most of his second chance at extended playing time.
"It's been an absolute roller-coaster type of year," he said. "Just being happy to get here at first, then becoming acclimated to everything and then not playing can kind of weigh on you. And then getting out there, you're happy, getting your feet wet and playing minutes and then you're back on the bench again.
"So it's been up and down but mentally college has prepared me to come in here and be prepared for anything and that's what I've been able to do. All in all, it's great to be here. The biggest thing for me is improving myself these last few games and into the summer."
Price played sparingly in the first two months of the season but showed enough promise in practice that when Coach Jim O'Brien opted to replace starter T.J. Ford with Earl Watson, has also promoted the rookie to the backup slot. While Ford sat, Price took full advantage of the opportunity.
Playing in all 17 games in January, Price averaged 19.9 minutes, 9.9 points and 2.4 assists, shooting 43 percent overall and 38 percent from the 3-point line. When Watson missed two games in early February to attend his grandmother's funeral, Price started and fared relatively well, totaling 17 points and eight assists.
But in that second start against Milwaukee, Price was poked in the eye by Andrew Bogut, which caused a concussion.
Watson returned to the team, Ford – who had played well as the backup behind Price – returned to the rotation and the rookie returned to the bench.
Ford eventually replaced Watson as the starter but aggravated a groin injury early in the first quarter in Boston this past Friday and is expected to miss at least another week. So Price is getting another chance.
"Just try to go out there and show the coaching staff I'll always be ready, regardless of the situation," said Price. "Just try to stay professional. I got a chance to watch what T.J. Ford went through earlier. He remained professional with it. He was ready to play when he got his number called and I've just got to be ready to do the same thing."
Price remains very much in the team's future plans; they saw enough from him in that January stint to be assured of that. Whether he improves enough to challenge for the starting spot could depend largely on his ability to defend the position. He's well aware of that need and plans to work extensively over the summer to strengthen that facet of his game.
"More than anything, it's learning the game and the schemes," he said. "This NBA game is drastically different from college, drastically different in terms of guarding people. The more familiarity I get with the game and what teams do, I should be able to get better defensively."
Price knows all about waiting his turn. A highly touted recruit at UConn, he sat out one year due to a brain aneurysm and another due to a suspension related to off-court legal issues.
Now, as he looks to a bright future in the NBA, Price knows it won't come easily or quickly.
"I would definitely like to have more playing time but that all depends on me," he said. "It's something I have to do in the summer to propel myself into that situation to be able to get more minutes, show them I want to work hard and this is where I want to be. It's all up to me, basically.
"I've just got to be professional and wait my turn. My turn's going to come eventually and when I get it I just have to be ready."