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Commentary: Anthony Randolph Finds Joy

A few years ago I purchased a white t-shirt with a picture of Len Bias emblazoned across its front. The photo used is an iconic one; Bias on draft night in his loose Celtics baseball hat, slightly tilted to the side. The limitless potential seeps from his all knowing, boyish smile; there is no color on the shirt except for the bright green hat. On the back there’s nothing but a fine-print sentence tattooed up by the neck. In light green type, it reads: The saddest thing in life is wasted talent. For a countless number of reasons, I love this shirt.  It’s devastating, mortal, a life lesson, and half-sentimental (I was born the year after Bias’ death) all rolled up in Medium sized 100 percent cotton.

(Before beginning, I’m not entirely sure how to seamlessly segue—if possible—from the catastrophic culture altering event that was Len Bias’ untimely death to Anthony Randolph being on the cusp of cracking the chains of “potential” and “undeveloped” that have been tightly wrapped around his ankles since entering the league, but here’s my starless shot in the dark.)

 

There’s a tragic quality in watching any person—whether it be by cocaine overdose, or the less serious disdain of elbow grease—fail to achieve what it seems they were put on Earth to do. This season Anthony Ranolph is averaging 19.3 points and 10 rebounds in three games as a starter. In the first two of those games (road battles in Dallas and Oklahoma City) Randolph scored 55 points and grabbed 22 rebounds. Admittedly, that sample size is way too small, so let’s look at his entire career. In 33 games as a starter since entering the league in 2008, Randolph’s averages look like this: 48% from the field, 11.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists. Nothing crazy but pretty decent numbers considering 30 of those games were amassed before he turned 21. At 6’11″ he has the type of body that frequently pops into the dreams of general managers, and was once described by DraftExpress as possessing “a pterodactyl wingspan and freakish athleticism.”

This from Hoopsworld:

“You have a tall, long, athletic and versatile player who fits in who fits into the system that we run here and playing in the spots on the floor that we want our bigs to play in,” says Timberwolves head coach Kurt Rambis, who started Randolph in place of the injured Kevin Love on Thursday. “I think it’s a natural fit for him. He’s still not real secure in what we do here on either end of the floor. He’s still learning, and there’s probably not enough time left in the season for him to ever get to that comfort level, but we see his ability to run the floor, his athleticism, his ability to shoot the basketball, and we envision him being a type of player who can guard certain players, maybe two, three or even four positions, not only on-ball, but also he’s a good weak-side help defender, as well.”

“I think he has a lot of upside and a lot of talent,” says Timberwolves swingman Wesley Johnson. “He can put the ball on the floor and really stretch the defense out. He’s really athletic, too, so he can really cause problems for our opponents. He can also block and alter shots, so he’s going to help us get up and down and be an up-tempo team.”

For Randolph, it’s just a chance to play…finally, to play.

I like watching players like Randolph grow, and seeing that progress stunted, to me, is as equally sad as a season ending knee injury (except in the case of Shaun Livingston, of course). To watch Randolph finally sniff the success so many saw in his future is a wonderful thing. As mentioned earlier, it’s only been two games so there’s nothing to get overly excited about, but when you tally a career high 31 points in your first start of the season, heads need spin. Yes, last night he scored just three points in 16 minutes, but there’s more to analyze in his positive performances than the loss against Boston; he was going up against an especially angry and motivated Kevin Garnett. Anthony Randolph has all the tools to succeed, and it’ll be interesting to see what he does now that they’ll likely be on full display for the rest of the regular season. Root for him. He deserves it.

 

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