Anthony Randolph: Why He Never Had a Chance with Mike D'Antoni's New York Knicks
Since Anthony Randolph was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 2008, he has been viewed as a player with tantalizing potential, tremendous length and a rare set of tools that were likely to translate well to the NBA level. However, this was not the case as he struggled to receive consistent playing time under Don Nelson up until he was sent to New York along with Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike in exchange for David Lee.
When he landed in the Big Apple, many believed this would be a renaissance for the enigmatic Randolph. Playing in an up-tempo system (much like the one he played for under Don Nelson) seemed to be the ideal fit for him. D'Antoni vowed to give him more playing time and allow him to develop into what many believed was a potential star.
He had D'Antoni dreaming of what it would be like to have him paired with Amar'e Stoudemire allowing the two of them to develop together and form a formidable frontcourt for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately as enchanted as D'Antoni was with Randolph's potential, the clock struck midnight on a Cinderella story that never even began. D'Antoni would soon get fed up with Randolph's immaturity and would not afford him the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them.
Several things contributed to Randolph being dismissed to Mike D'Antoni's mysterious dog house. The immaturity that accompanied Randolph's bona fide potential should have been fairly obvious to both Nelson and D'Antoni. Currently he is in his third season in the NBA, and is only 21 years old!
Someone of Randolph's age and potential deserves the chance to develop and grow into the star that many believed he could be. Even though New York seemed to be the perfect situation for him to cultivate his game and realize his potential, it could not have been more wrong for him.
Various things contributed to Randolph being doomed from the start, in a place where he should have had every chance to succeed.
Randolph's 2009 Summer League Numbers Were Blown Way out of Proportion
In the 2009 Summer League, Randolph put up a monstrous stat line of 26.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.3 SPG, and 3.0 BPG displaying such dominance that everyone expected him to translate his sublime performance into the regular season.
Captivating the Vegas crowd with such a dazzling demonstration would set the bar at astronomical heights for Randolph. Unfortunately for him, many did not take the above stat line at face value. Some even expected his astonishing showing in the Summer League to carry over to the regular season.
Assessing his numbers in this way created an obvious problem. Many fans, coaches, and front office executives used Randolph's tremendous stat line as an indication of what he is now, as opposed to what he is capable of becoming.
While the numbers were certainly impressive, they were taken out of context. Summer League should be used as a small indicator of what a player can become, not an exact evaluation. The Summer League pinned Randolph against fellow young players, and seasoned veterans looking to find their way back onto an NBA roster. However, it excluded the elite competition which he would face during the regular season.
While Randolph would not be traded to the Knicks until a season later, D'Antoni always had his eye on the young prospect, viewing him as an ideal fit for his run and gun system. Allowing the glow of Randolph's summer spectacle to distort his perception, D'Antoni looked past all Randolph's deficiencies and only saw his positive attributes. He set the expectations so high for Randolph, that when the young forward ended up in New York and did not perform at a high level immediately, he was unfairly branded "immature" and banished to the bench.
The NBA Comparisons He Received Set Expectations Too High for Him
"It's like looking in the mirror a little," Odom said of Randolph. "He's also 6'11", he's left-handed and he can put the ball on the floor. He's two times as athletic as I was at that age.
"He should set his goals high. He has All-Star potential, Hall of Fame potential, with that size, his ability to put the ball on the floor, he can shoot the three, he can pass. If he stays focused, the sky is the limit for him."
While Lamar Odom's accolades are flattering for the young Randolph, it places a ton of pressure on him to succeed as well. He was even perceived by some as a hybrid of Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom before he even played his first NBA game. This led the media to lionize him even more, and place an even greater amount of pressure on him.
Coupled with the aforementioned 2009 Summer League stat-line, the expectations could not have been higher for him when he was shipped to New York. Viewed as the centerpiece of the David Lee trade, many saw the deal as lopsided since Randolph would almost certainly become a star.
However, the thing that everyone may not have wanted to see is how young he is. Entering the league at only 19 years old, Randolph landed in the do or die city of New York at 21 years old. The pressure placed upon anyone playing in the bright lights of New York is unimaginable, let alone someone as young as 21 years old.
As many NBA veterans will tell you, experience is a good teacher. So many drooled over Randolph's rare combination of size and skill that they forgot how old he was. Landing in New York, these comparisons would shorten the length of time D'Antoni would give him to develop, since he expected him to dominate instantaneously. D'Antoni would instead condemn Randolph for his mistakes, as opposed to letting him learn from them.
His Thin Frame Was Not Suitable to Play the Center Position
While his versatility and length was what had all the general manager's talking, many overlooked the fact that as tall and lank as he was, his body was not totally NBA ready.
While Randolph was able to use his condor-like wingspan to deceive the center's at the college-level, his build had potential, but lacked the needed muscle to match up equally to the NBA caliber big men.
With no true starting center, D'Antoni forced Randolph into the position. With Amar'e Stoudemire slotted into his natural position at power forward, Randolph was instructed to match up against some of the biggest bodies the NBA had to offer.
Obviously Randolph did not last long, as the Knicks went with the slightly shorter, more muscular and experienced Ronny Turiaf as their starting center.
The most beneficial thing D'Antoni could have given Randolph was time to develop his wiry frame, into an NBA ready body that could bang down low with the best of them. Making him play center exploited his weaknesses instead of properly utilizing his strengths.
Quickly growing frustrated, D'Antoni blamed Randolph for not playing correctly calling him "immature", instead of realizing that he was simply using him the wrong way.
Playing Anthony Randolph at the power forward position, would have allowed him to match up against players with similar body types, while giving Amar'e a solid backup off the bench. Had D'Antoni allowed him to play at this position, instead of center until his body was more muscular, he could have been a very dangerous weapon off the bench for the Knicks.
Randolph's Timing Could Not Have Been Worse
When 2010 came around, the only player New Yorkers wanted was LeBron James. No matter what the alternative player had to offer, the stubborn city of New York would not be satisfied unless the King signed with them.
With the Knicks trade hinging on the King's decision, many viewed it as "the second best option." The trade sending away fan favorite David Lee was the alternative move. Leaving New York shell-shocked, LeBron decided to take his services to South Beach to pair with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in order to maximize his chances of winning a title.
After waiting two long years for Donnie Walsh to clean up the mess left behind by Isiah Thomas, Knicks fans were not about to be satisfied by a player who "could develop" into a star. They wanted a star now, and being scorned by LeBron only made the Knicks fans' insatiable appetite for a proven winner that much greater.
Even though savvy Knicks fans felt the Knicks had made a good move receiving three players and a draft pick for David Lee, it was not nearly enough to remove the sting of the Isiah Thomas Error (not Era, Error). Sadly for Randolph, D'Antoni was equally as impatient and felt that he could not wait any longer to turn his team into a winner. His frustrations from losing out on a second star to pair with Amar'e Stoudemire fueled his decision to relegate Randolph to the bench without ever really giving him a fair chance at success.
The impatience of Mike D'Antoni along with the pressure put on the Knicks to succeed crippled Randolph's chance of success in New York before he even played his first game for them.
As He Thrives in Minnesota, New Yorkers Wonder What Might Have Been
Pulling the trigger on the highly acclaimed Carmelo Anthony deal the Knicks mortgaged their future, by gutting their roster in order to receive a second star to place next to Amar'e Stoudemire. While it will take time for the new Knicks roster to get acclimated to each other, many believed the prudent thing to do would have been to wait for Carmelo to sign with them over the summer.
While no one will know for sure, whether James Dolan forced the hand of Donnie Walsh to make the deal, it appears that it is very likely that he did. Donnie Walsh was determined to keep the roster in tact, so that when 'Melo arrived over the summer the Knicks would have a deep roster to play alongside him and Amar'e.
Unfortunately it seemed that the impatience of D'Antoni and Dolan to win now forced Walsh to pull the trigger, gutting the roster for a shot at competing in the playoffs this year.
The player it looks like the Knicks should have held onto is none other than Anthony Randolph. Since Kevin Love went down with an injury, Randolph has thrived in his two game absence. Producing an average of 27.5 PPG, 13 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, and 1.5 BPG.
Even though Minnesota is a much smaller market than New York, the biggest difference is that there is less pressure on him, and he has received more playing time and confidence from his coach.
While it is only for two games, and is occurring in Minnesota, at only 21 years old Randolph seems to finally be putting it together one game at a time. He is beginning to capitalize on the potential that made him such a popular sleeper when he entered the 2008 NBA Draft.
If Randolph continues to contribute at a high level when Love returns from injury, they will form one of the most intriguing frontcourts in the NBA. With Randolph and Love, only being ages 21, and 22 respectively.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, they'll have to watch Randolph development and succeed with another team and wonder what kind of player he would have become had he been given a fairer chance in New York.