As the saying goes, "another man's junk is another man's treasure." Anthony Randolph, the now ex-Golden State Warrior and New York Knicks shiny new toy, is described as a player that could finally flourish under coach Mike D'Antoni's loose-free-flowing system. Questions about his "fit" with the Warriors, their purported "grind-it out, structured scheme," again, renarrate the Warriors to the public stage of the NBA as an incompetent team with an incompetent coach, both who can't see the forest for the trees. By this, the trees being Randolph's immaturity versus the forest being the potential around his skill-set.
Anthony Randolph may not be a Warrior anymore, but a few of these recent features of him in national media make me wonder to what extent do people outside of the bay area know how far Randolph has to go. And to what extent is that a reflection of how little people know about the Warriors and professional sports in the bay area?
Since the trade, Randolph has been the consummate professional with regards to answering questions about his tenure with the Warriors, marked by inconsistent minutes, the consistent public blasting of him by coach Don Nelson, crying faces, and hitting up nightclubs during games.
But a common trope of "underutilized" surfaces in features around Randolph's intriguing, yet incredibly raw skill-set, and why he and the Knicks will benefit. Jonathan Abrams, from the New York Times N.B.A. blog asks Randolph;
Q. Why do you feel like the Knicks and Mike D'Antoni are a good fit?
A. He allows his players to play. In Golden State, it was kind of like a situation where he wanted me to rebound and that's it, don't do nothing else. Here, it's more God has given me the natural ability to handle the ball a little bit. You can move like a guard, you can guard guys, you're able to be put in different positions and I think I'll be allowed to do that here.
Randolph was given an incredibly short leash when it came to what he should and shouldn't do on the court, typified by an undefined role on the court as the passer. He often looked like he was thinking too much out there whenever he got into his 'triple-threat' position, pausing for about 4 seconds staring at his opponent, only to swing the ball around the perimeter.
Maybe nervous about when his next minutes were going to be, Randolph looked more awkward than the "finesse" player his high school coach sees in him. Randolph was a terrible finisher in traffic, often times trying to barrel over opposing big men. Either that or his poor footwork on the block led to many travel calls or shots where he too often was sprawled on the floor with his legs and torso in a pretzel. Judging by those moves, you wondered if he had two left feet.
And while you can't knock Randolph for his interpretation of his role on the Warriors as just "rebounder," you could also tell that Nelson was trying to teach Randolph basics by helping him minimize his turnovers.
While the media drooled over his incredible 2009 Summer League stat-line, earning him a spot to practice with the U.S.A national team, us Warrior fans were equally excited and skeptical of how this translated into real games with real stakes on the line.
Today, the Wall Street Journal featured a piece on the hope for Randolph's possible success this coming season as a facilitator. But embedded within these stories are of Randolph's hidden or ignored talents under Warriors coach Don Nelson's regime. As mentioned briefly earlier, Randolph's high school coach offers personal testimonies of his abilities in high school as both a point guard and a big man at the same time.
D'Antoni is similarly quoted by the WSJ as needing to strategize how best to use Randolph:
"He's a unique talent," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni. "And we have to find the right place for him to play, because he's not a standard four, three, whatever. We'll have to be able to utilize his talents and put him on display."
And while strategizing how to use players properly is what coaches are trained to do, I would read D'Antoni's statement, based off what I've seen from televised games and games in-person, is that Randolph really has no position gives his poor mechanics.
His ball-handling, while seemingly good for a big man in transition, is loosey-goosey and erratic when he's actually challenged. As mentioned earlier, he has a limited skill-set on the block or from the perimeter. In one game that Atma Brother #1 (of Golden State of Mind) and I watched at the Oracle Arena, we counted 4 times (in one half) where he ended up flailing on the floor, with the ball thrown up erratically trying to initiate his own offense from within 5 feet of the hoop and beyond.
Randolph is only 21 and has tons of space to grow. But you sometimes wonder how much national media or media outside the bay area really knows about the Warriors. Maybe Randolph will become the "next-Lamar-Odom" as far as versatility goes. But utilizing the argument that Mike D'Antoni's system will make him more effective (From the WSJ article: "The feeling around Madison Square Garden is that Mr. Randolph could flourish in Mr. D'Antoni's up-tempo system, which has room for unconventional players to run the court and ad lib and show off their versatility") makes me think that D'Antoni's system is really about minimizing his errors than improving/developing on his skill set. That is, rather than say what Randolph brings to the Knicks, it seems that these pieces are more about what the Knicks, or D'Antoni in particular, can do for Randolph and his game.
I know I'm beating a dead horse here. Randolph isn't even a Warrior anymore and why dwell on the past? But it's hard to read national media's rendering of Warriors franchise when it comes to their talent evaluation and preparation. It just makes you wonder, sometimes, whether national media (or fans outside the bay area) really watches Warrior games. Based on an adventure in Philadelphia about 5 years ago when a guy working at a shoe store, after looking at my t-shirt, asked me if the Warriors were a team in the "Continental Basketball Association," I assume no one is really watching.