Many Boston Celtics fans have been lukewarm about bench player Shavlik Randolph, the final addition to this year's roster. But not his former coach in the Chinese Basketball Association, Norm deSilva. He knows firsthand that No. 42 is the real deal.
“Guys like Shav are so hard to find,” deSilva told me on Friday. “He is very skilled and mobile for his size. He has a knack for finding a way to rebound against more athletic players, and is very difficult to guard when he faces up in the low post.”
DeSilva, a former NBA D-League assistant coach who started as the top assistant for the Foshan Dralions (Long Lions) in 2012, took over head coaching duties midway through the season. And Randolph, it appears, just plain took over the league.
The Duke alum averaged 32 points, 14.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game with the Long Lions. He did it all, utilizing his unique combination of strength, size (6'10”, 240 pounds) and agility.
“He led our entire league in scoring,” deSilva points out. “That doesn't happen by accident—especially in a league with numerous ex-NBA All-Stars.”
The Long Lions are one of 17 teams in the CBA, an increasingly competitive league that featured former pros Stephon Marbury (Beijing Ducks), Gilbert Arenas (Shanghai Sharks) and Tracy McGrady (Qingdao Doublestars). Randolph was the only former NBA player for Foshan, having played 98 career games—79 for the Philadelphia 76ers, the rest scattered between the Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers.
DeSilva, who currently lives back in his native town of Dartmouth in southeastern Massachusetts, will be watching with hopes that Randolph gets a shot at more playing time with the Celts. He notes that his former player can provide more than just an interior presence.
“If he gets a chance to start a few games or play significant minutes, people are going to be very surprised at how well he shoots the ball from the outside, and his ability to spot up on the perimeter,” he said. “He can really stretch the floor and present matchup problems for other big guys who have to come out and guard him.”
Boston fans have only witnessed small samplings of what Randolph brings to the table, but he has made the most of his limited opportunities.
As detailed by ESPN's Chris Forsberg recently, the big man grabbed 34.8 percent of all available defensive rebounds and 27 percent of total rebound opportunities in the Celtics' first three games without Kevin Garnett on the floor (due to an inflamed left ankle).
Then he absolutely exploded in Boston's victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, March 29. He scored nine points, delivered two monstrous blocks and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds. His seven total offensive boards ranks as a Celtics season high.
“I just try to be active underneath,” Randolph told WEEI Boston after the game. “That's my job: to go manhunt every rebound.”
In the past four games, Randolph has provided the Celtics with a remarkable plus-19 in point differential—Boston is minus-26 when he's on the bench. And deSilva feels that this breakout performance could be just the tip of the iceberg for his former player.
“Right now he is playing a complementary role in Boston,” deSilva said. “But if he is asked to start doing more offensively, he is really going to surprise some people with what he can do.”
And he can't think of a player who deserves the extra opportunities as much as Randolph.
“The best part of it all is that he is a genuinely good person. The Celtics are extremely lucky to get such a high-character guy like Shav.”
This interview was conducted personally with Norm deSilva. Click here to read the author's original piece on Shavlik Randolph, an introductory profile published on March 18.