Prior to being acquired by the Knicks from the Warriors in a trade for David Lee this offseason, Randolph had been given a tough wrap while learning (or struggling to learn) then-Warriors coach Don Nelson’s fast paced offense.
That, plus an injury that prevented Randolph from starting the season healthy, could certainly be why his new coach with the Knicks, Mike D’Antoni, is cautiously (yet very patiently) taking things slow with him.
Randolph, once considered the centerpiece of the trade that also brought Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike to New York, has been relegated to the end of the bench for most of this season.
The Knicks coaching staff believes that patience will ultimately be a virtue in the case of Randolph. Instead of throwing him into the fire, forcing him to learn the offense on the fly during games, he is being given time in practice to acclimate himself.
That course of action would continue to be acceptable, of course, if the Knicks had Ronny Turiaf fully available. Currently, Turiaf is nursing an injury that initially limited his playing time, before forcing him to sit out the team’s last two games entirely. Though he is only listed as day-to-day, he also missed five games (all during the Knicks’ six-game losing streak) earlier last month.
As much as the Knicks are often praised for their depth, their frontline is rather weak, especially without Turiaf on the defensive end. The versatility Randolph could potentially provide this team with would be phenomenal.
Randolph had become known for his versatility with the Warriors, often able to play three, sometimes four positions. D’Antoni could absolutely find an effective role for Randolph in his rotation.
The problem is that at 21 years old, Randolph is still a raw prospect who now has to learn D’Antoni’s offense, which is arguably faster than Nelson’s style of play in Golden State. He still hasn’t honed all of his skills yet.
Furthermore, Randolph looked more and more confused and hesitant on the court towards the end of the preseason. If an injury had not prevented him from playing initially, D’Antoni may have stopped him from doing so anyway.
With Turiaf out, the Knicks have depended on Amar’e Stoudemire at center, subbing in Timofey Mozgov as his backup. Mozgov has been a major disappointment to say the least. Originally the team’s starting center this season before losing his job to Turiaf, Mozgov has failed to familiarize himself with American basketball just yet.
In addition, Mozgov is also proving to be a fish out of water in D’Antoni’s offense. He is constantly turning the ball over and freezing the offense, lagging behind as he is simply not quick enough to keep up with the system’s fluidity. It’s one thing to be slightly confused, as Randolph has been, but Mozgov has looked completely flabbergasted on offense.
Although his man-to-man defense has been praised, he has become a fouling machine, most recently recording four fouls in just eight-plus minutes in an appearance vs. the Nets Tuesday night.
That really isn’t a major problem, as the Knicks knew Mozgov would be a project when they signed him. Things take time. As the NBA game proves to be too quick for him though, perhaps it is he who would benefit from taking time to develop his game in practice.
Enter Anthony Randolph.
While he may only be 225 pounds, Randolph’s 6’’1″ frame and impressive shot-blocking ability may be enough to help him hold his own with other big men around the league. After all, he did play solid role-player minutes in his past two seasons with the Warriors. The fact that he is so slim could ultimately help Randolph beat opponents to the basket on both ends of the floor.
He even gave the Knicks a taste of what he can do during his best game of the season, an early November matchup with the Bucks in which he scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds in addition to two steals and two blocks in 28 minutes (the only game in which he has played more than 12 minutes this season).
With two NBA seasons under his belt, Randolph is more seasoned than Mozgov. He only has to acclimate himself to his coach’s system, not the league as a whole.
That’s not to say Randolph should play anywhere close to starter’s minutes, but at the same time, the Knicks can benefit, certainly even in a pinch, from the tangibles Randolph has to offer.
Not having him on the floor is currently hurting them, as Mozgov has quickly become a liability. The Knicks can be all about the proper development of their prospects, but when it comes to helping his team the most, the time needs to be now for Anthony Randolph.