As it becomes more and more clear that the 2010 New York Knicks, lovable as they may be, have a long way to go before they can be considered "good", a few questions come to mind. Why does Amar'e Stoudemire continue to go one-on-four half a dozen times every game? Is the pick-and-roll *really* that complicated that professional players in the best league in the world cannot wrap their brains around it, or at least show some indication that they're getting there? Why do our least efficient scorers take the vast majority of our shots? Why do the wheels of our defense completely fall off without Ronny Turiaf on the floor? Why do we only play 36 minutes of basketball, etc. etc. But what I'm wondering right now is... what the fuck happened to Anthony Randolph?
We've seen the highlights, and the odd Warriors game here and there. We saw the numbers, which suggested that with enough playing time and the right coach we could have a young star on our hands. We heard the warnings, about the extreme highs and lows of his play. We heard the coaching staff drool over his upside and generational talent, while acknowledging that he was a work in progress--but a big part of the Knicks' plan going forward. And so far?
A whole twelve minutes per game (six less than even his rookie season). A frigid 6 of 25 from the field, total. A general sense of floating around and simply not getting it, a few spectacularly bone-headed plays, and a leash so short that D'Antoni might as well be out there grabbing him by the scruff of his neck. The most level-headed of Knicks beat writers (low bar, but whatevs) twats that Randolph straight up sucks at basketball and should maybe be ritually sacrificed, for reals. Yikes!
So what gives? Why is he struggling? What's the plan for him anyway? Here are some random thoughts/conspiracy theories:
Not enough playing time:
He’s a young’n who has been jerked around by his head coach for his entire pro career, and it shows. Whenever he screws up he looks over at the bench, like an abused puppy that instinctively flinches whenever someone raises a hand. Here in NY, he is clearly pressing, trying too hard to be the budding superstar that some of us hoped he would become. So what do we do? Take him out immediately whenever he screws up, of course! Young players need the opportunity to play through mistakes. Give him guidance, give him a small, clearly defined role, and grin and bear it while he figures things out. It’s not like everyone else is playing perfect ball, so why limit Randolph to two five-minute stretches per game (if he’s lucky)?
No defined role:
What is he supposed to do out there, when he does play? His offensive repertoire is obviously much more raw than anticipated, but he does demonstrate decent passing, tremendous rebounding and a lot of blocks per minute. His role should be made idiot-proof: play defense, sprint down the floor in transition, clean the glass, and try to get out of the way during set plays on offense. This would seem simple, but either he’s being told to do this and not listening, or he’s not being told to do this. My money is on the latter, because look at who he plays with! Last night for example, he was part of the following line-up to start the 4th quarter:
PG: Douglas SG: Mason Jr. SF: Chandler PF: Randolph C: Mozgov
That line-up has the collective basketball IQ of a cinderblock. TD is a scorer who cannot run an offense, Mason Jr. cannot play basketball, Chandler looks mostly for his own shot, and Mozgov is very raw as well. I ask you, who is the best passer/facilitator of the five? The answer is “none of the above.” This is not a line-up conducive to success, particularly Randolph’s success. He should be out there deferring to Amar’e, getting the ball from Felton on the break, and playing defense, period. He should not be encouraged to do his Kevin Durant on PCP impression because there is huge leadership vacuum on the floor for the five minutes he’s out there.
Maybe he is just really, really, really dumb:
Could it be that for all his freakish athleticism and skill at rebounding/blocking shots/handling the ball, he is so monumentally stupid that even simple basketball tasks and strategies are beyond him? We were warned by Warriors fans that he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I really hope it’s not that bad. Pringles is known for not micro-managing his players, but it may be that Randolph really needs his instructions spelled out for him (and then pantomimed for him, and then written down and safety-pinned to his uniform). Then again, the list of players who have consistently demonstrated excellent basketball IQ this year is the following:
(Honorable mention: Ronny Turiaf)
That’s… pretty much it. Is Randolph SO stupid that he out-stupids everyone else on the roster, who have all chipped in to fulfill our seasonal quota of face-palm moments in record time? Or is he, for some reason, getting a raw-er deal than most?
Maybe this is all part of the master plan:
Unlikely, but I like to hold out hope that Walsh and D’Antoni love him so, so, so much that they’ve decided to bury him on the bench to nuke his trade value, so that Denver won’t even want him once we (inevitably?) let them pick over our roster in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. Fat chance, I know, but… stranger things have happened, I guess?
Anyway, I would like to know what you all think is wrong with the kid and what can be done about it. I still think his talent is tantalizing, and he’s shown flashes of it despite so far generally playing like he spends his time on the bench huffing paint. In the (very small sample size) of minutes he’s had as a Knickerbocker, he’s averaged 12.6 reb/36, 2.7 blocks/36 and has a rebound percentage of 19% all of which are good for tops on the team and right around his prodigious career averages to date. There has to be a way he can be a major contributor, but HOW?
There’s just something about his combination of youth, skill, comical proportions, sad face and middle name of “Erwin” that makes me really want Anthony Randolph to succeed. How can we get this train back on the rails?