Crazy Nellie: The Randolph Conundrum

“…a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”            — Winston Churchill

Now that Jackson is gone, and the Ellis/Curry backcourt is no longer as controversial as it was, the Bay Area media have picked up a new hammer to beat Don Nelson over the head with: the playing time of the Warriors tantalizingly gifted young big man, Anthony Randolph.  After witnessing last night’s game, overhearing an interesting comment by Coach Keith Smart, and coming across an article on the Suns’ tantalizingly gifted young big man, Earl Clark,  I feel ready to drop my thoughts on this matter:

After a very solid effort in Dallas, young Anthony Randolph regressed in the San Antonio game.  Jim Barnett noticed several lapses in his rotations and his rebounding.  And I noticed him getting frustrated by not getting the ball on offense, which predictably lead to him refusing to give up the ball on the break, and jacking up off-balance jumpers.  The stretch late in the third quarter where the Spurs broke away from the Warriors was triggered by a Randolph failure.  He fell asleep on Bonner at the three point line: boom, Spurs by four.  The slump of his teammates’ shoulders after that shot indicated that getting up into Bonner had been a point of emphasis to the coaching staff.

On offense, Randolph was largely ignored.  He did get a couple of nice putbacks.  But when the Warriors went to him in isolation on the post, he didn’t know what he wanted to do with the ball.  In one possession he simply traveled.  In another, he tried a slow motion spin move on Duncan.  Duncan sent the ball and Randolph to the floor with one swat. Jim Barnett noted, not for the first time, that Randolph needs to develop a go-to move that he is comfortable with.

The Bay Area media have been all over Don Nelson this season about Anthony Randolph’s playing time.  They have been emphasizing that by requiring Randolph to earn his minutes, and by disciplining him by taking him out of games when he makes horrible mistakes, or stubbornly refuses to play the way the team wants and needs him to play, Don Nelson is somehow “jerking Anthony Randolph around.”  He is somehow “employing a double standard,” where veterans get to run rampant, and rookies get horribly abused.  You know, “Don Nelson hates young players.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Don Nelson is not doing anything different with Anthony Randolph than other good coaches do with undeveloped raw players.  Please take the time to read this recent piece on the Suns’ rookie big man Earl Clark.  Here are some excerpts:

  • At the same time [Clark] wants to play and is frustrated by his lack of court time, “As a rookie, it’s no mistakes. Other guys they’d be able to make mistakes and they can be able to stay out there but rookies, one mistake or two you’re out of the game.”
  • The biggest knock on Earl in the pre-draft reviews was his work ethic and desire. Steve Kerr touched on this when I asked him about Clark’s progress to date, “The biggest thing with Earl is we’re just trying to teach him what it takes to be successful on a daily basis. That means the commitment, the work ethic, the intensity of the work outs.”
  • In the long run, it is probably best that Clark is forced to earn his playing time. He’s a very talented kid who can play either the small or power forward positions. Physically he’s a five-tool guy with the ability to pass the ball, dribble and create, defend, shoot his high-release jumper, and finish well above the rim.
  • The key will be his desire to put in the work needed for him to learn the game at this level and over-come what appears to be a mediocre basketball IQ.
  • “Unless you learn how to apply all those skills then nothing’s going to come of it. So, that’s what we’re trying to teach him is how he can apply his skills and how hard he has to work in order for that talent to take hold,” said Kerr who is the guy responsible for drafting him to Phoenix.

Can you spot the similarities in the situations of the 21-year-old Earl Clark, and the 20-year-old Anthony Randolph?  If you can, you are way ahead of the Bay Area media.

Last night, in his post-game interview, Coach Keith Smart was asked about whether the tide in the Warriors’ fortunes had changed.  After laughing and saying “I sure hope so,” he offered a more serious comment:  Going forward, Smart said, “We’ll have guys who are NBA ready starting to come back.”

Are you rolling with feltbot as he reads between the lines of that comment?

(Other pieces in the Crazy Nellie series: The Ellis/Curry backcourt.)

5 Responses to Crazy Nellie: The Randolph Conundrum

  1. Disclaimer: I love your blog, I respect you, but I have to take issue with this Randolph rip. To pin the 22-3 run on Randolph’s failure to rotate on one play is harsh and unfair. It’s not like he was the only Warrior slipping up on defense in the second half yesterday. It seems like you’re unfairly picking on Randolph, because even though he made some 20-year-old mistakes in last night’s game, he still had enough good moments to total 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks and only one turnover in 27 minutes. So why single out Randolph out like this when so many other players played as bad or worse than Randolph? What about Morrow? Why does Morrow get a free pass for his disappearing act? What about Curry? Curry forced a lot of shots, turned the ball over like he was trying to throw the game, and he gets a free pass? Why don’t you rip him? What about Vlad Rad? He was terrible in last night’s game. Why don’t you write about him? And comparing Randolph, who has proven his ability time and again during his first two seasons, to Earl Clark, who is averaging 2.8 points and 2.1 rebounds and hasn’t shown much of anything to deserve more playing time is a major stretch.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving to you too Jared! :>

    You’re absolutely right, it is unfair to single out Randolph for last night’s loss. There were a lot of things to pick on from last nights game, particularly with Stephen Curry, who simpy didn’t bring it physically or mentally on the back end of his first NBA back-to-back.

    I didn’t intend to write a recap of the game. My points about Randolph have been brewing, as you know, and what I saw in this game, as well as the Earl Clark piece, AND the revelatory comment by Coach Smart, simply brought my thoughts together.

    Randolph was not to blame for this loss (although he was on the floor when San Antonio pulled away, and played poorly). I did not intend to imply that he was. I probably should have put these thoughts into a separate piece.

    But I stand by them.

  3. By the way, my long-term (3 month!) readers should know that I am a huge fan of Anthony Randolph. I expect really big things from him.

    I wrote this piece not so much to rag on Randolph, who is after all a 20-year-old player who can be expected to struggle and make mistakes, but to point out the error that I believe other bloggers, fans and members of the media are making with regard to the issue of his playing time.

    Unlike many (including Anthony Randolph himself!), I like how Randolph is being brought along.

  4. Jared, I’ve changed the format of my piece to reflect your valid concerns. Thanks for the input!
    And Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Thank you for the response. You are a true class act.