Five days off between games, even in the NBA, is a long time. It’s nice that the Warriors have this time to work on some issues that have led to their 0-2 start, and hopefully they take advantage.
One of the interesting developments through the first two games this season has been the bizarre way Don Nelson has used young power forward Anthony Randolph. We all remember the way Nelson treated Randolph last season. I hoped that we would see a better relationship between the two in Year 2 – a relationship of trust, perhaps? But thus far, Randolph’s playing time has been either insignificant (against the Rockets) or inconsistent (against the Suns). That kind of treatment isn’t going to help the progress of one of the Warriors’ most talented young players.
To be fair, Randolph’s play has been as inconsistent as his minutes through the first two games. His stats – eight points, four rebounds, an assist and blocked shot in 10 minutes against Houston, and 12 points (2 for 9 shooting), 7 rebounds, an assist and a block in 25 minutes (of which half were garbage time) – aren’t spectacular. Watching the first two games, it’s been clear that Randolph doesn’t seem completely comfortable on the court. It seems to me like he’s playing as if he’s looking over his shoulder at Nelson all the time, wondering when he’ll be sent back to the bench. Some of that is on Randolph; at some point, he needs to let go of his insecurity and just play the game. But, he’s 20, so that’s easier said than done.
Nelson’s reluctance to give Randolph the same long leash as his veterans (Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette haven’t played well in the first two games, but Nelson seems to stick with them no matter what) is predictable, but still frustrating to watch.
Why is Nelson yanking Randolph around this season? Was Randolph’s offseason of hard work not good enough for him? Was his record-breaking performance during the Vegas Summer League not impressive enough? What does Randolph have to do to get a fair chance?
The 10-minute allowance Nelson afforded Randolph in the first game was explainable at the time. We all read the reports about Randolph’s sore back and it stood to reason that his limited playing time was tied to that. But, if Randolph is healthy again, how do we justify the way he was used in the second game? I was happy to see Nelson insert him into the starting lineup and expected to see Randolph play 30 meaningful minutes. But Randolph played the first seven minutes, scoring four points with two rebounds an assist and a blocked shot. A solid performance, right? The problem wasn’t that Nelson took Randolph out after seven minutes; he was probably due for a breather. The problem was that Nelson kept Randolph on the bench the rest of the first half.
Why? It makes no sense to me.
Nelson kept it up in the second half. Randolph started the third quarter, played five minutes and came out of the game. Again, why? Nelson put Randolph in to start the fourth quarter, but by that time the game was all but over with the Warriors down 19. Randolph played the rest of the game.
I feel like I should give Nelson the benefit of the doubt. He is a great coach, a legendary coach and truth be told, I’m not really qualified to question his methods. But I’ll stubborn, so I’ll do it anyway. Why not give Randolph the opportunity to play freely, give him a longer leash to make some mistakes? I think that given the opportunity, Randolph will do much more to positively impact the game than otherwise. Because of his youth and inexperience, it would be helpful to know that he has the trust of his coach. I can’t speak for Randolph, but it seems that he might doubt that right now.
This week should be a good opportunity to see what Randolph can do. Against the Grizzlies on Wednesday, he’ll be matched up with Zach Randolph, who is a terrible defensive player but a tough offensive matchup. And Friday against the Clippers, he’ll likely match up with Marcus Camby, who should be a very tough defensive matchup and can be a handful on offense.
It would be nice to see Randolph play consistent minutes against these two teams this week. Allow him to play through the growing pains and gain some valuable learning experiences. Maybe that will help him play up to the potential he flashed late last season and during the summer.