Randolph: ?It?s like starting all over?

Discussion in 'Portland Trail Blazers' started by PortlandLeBron, Dec 29, 2005.

  1. PortlandLeBron

    PortlandLeBron JBB JustBBall Member

    Dec 29, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Trophy Points:
    <div class="quote_poster">Quote:</div><div class="quote_post">Zach Randolph had it easy his first three seasons with the Trail Blazers.
    Little was expected of the 6-9 power forward when he arrived to a talent-laden Portland team as a 19-year-old rookie from Michigan State. And now, all the veterans by whom Randolph had been cushioned ? Damon Stoudamire, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Nick Van Exel and Derek Anderson ? are gone.
    Randolph, beginning a six-year, $84-million contract, and Darius Miles are the ?veterans? expected to lead the young Blazers back to respectability. And Randolph, who had grown used to the laid-back manner of Maurice Cheeks, hasn?t responded well to new coach Nate McMillan?s determination to change the culture of the franchise and create a sense of accountability and responsibility among his players.
    Including the preseason, Randolph arrived late for three game-day shootarounds and was benched in each case. He resisted McMillan?s plea for better work habits and to be a low-post presence for the Blazers. Randolph gradually drifted outside to do more shooting on the perimeter, leaving his team void of inside scoring presence and irritating his new coach, who also wants him to make an increased commitment to defense.
    But there is a misperception swirling about Randolph?s future in Portland.
    Randolph isn?t asking for a trade. Neither is his coach.
    ?Zach Randolph can play for Nate McMillan,? the coach says.
    Randolph thinks that, too, though he admits he misses Cheeks.
    ?Ain?t never had no (NBA) coach but Cheeks,? Randolph says. ?We were close. He made me into the player I am. Taught me everything I know about the league.?

    Relationship gets better

    In the last three games, Randolph has spent more time on the block, where he can be effective either scoring with his left hand or by drawing the double-team and kicking to a teammate. In last Friday?s loss to Seattle, Randolph sank 9 of 12 shots and collected 23 points, eight rebounds and a career-high eight assists.
    Randolph struggled in Sunday?s win over Washington, hitting only 3 of 13 shots, though many of the misses were from short range. He finished with nine points and five rebounds in only 27 minutes.
    The Wizards ?did a nice job of fronting Zach and making him work,? McMillan says. ?But he has to keep his mind in the game if things aren?t happening for him the first three quarters, because in the fourth quarter, we know we?re still going to run the offense through him.?
    McMillan acknowledges a recent change in Randolph?s willingness to accede to the coach?s desires.
    ?The last couple of games, he has worked harder and tried to do the things we?ve asked him to, to get down there deep,? says McMillan, who wants Randolph to score on a blend of inside and outside shots. ?He?s one of our best shooters on the perimeter. As long as he?s not out there all the time, it?s fine.?
    Randolph has typically given lukewarm responses when asked his opinion of McMillan as a coach. On Sunday, he seemed to have altered his opinion a trifle.
    ?He?s a good coach,? Randolph said. ?He?s real detailed, works hard at what he does, puts his time in. He?s a demanding, hard-nosed coach. He wants everything done right.?
    In Randolph?s opinion, have player and coach butted heads?
    ?Not really,? he says. ?It?s just been different. I?ve had to change my game. It?s like starting all over. A lot of people don?t understand that.?
    McMillan does. He expected a transition period, not just with Randolph but with all of his teammates. If there are minor confrontations, the coach says he isn?t going to take it personally.
    ?The players have to get to know me, and I have to get to know them,? McMillan says. ?If there is a situation where we disagree or raise our voice at each other once, or twice, or three times, it doesn?t make either of us a bad person. If they do blow off steam, I understand why. I don?t judge them solely on that.?

    Growing pains

    Ultimately, McMillan is going to get his way. Randolph, perhaps, is beginning to understand that and says his relationship with McMillan is improving.
    In Randolph?s first 31⁄2 seasons with Portland, he had veterans around him to deflect pressure and show him how to be a professional. They?re gone now. McMillan knows what effect that can have from his time in Seattle.
    ?Rashard Lewis grew up with, first, Gary Payton, and then Ray Allen,? McMillan says. ?Zach and Miles don?t have that. They are dealing with something they?ve never experienced. They don?t know what?s in front of them. When the other team is putting its best defender on you and double-teaming you and you still have to deliver, you feel pressure. You don?t have that star above you to take that pressure off you.
    ?Zach has gone from being a part of a team to being the guy. He hasn?t seen before the different defenses teams are putting on him now. He has a guy in front of him, a guy behind him. They are double-teaming him on the catch, trying to wear him down. It?s like a rookie trying to play quarterback while learning to read the defenses. Under those circumstances, a lot of times you don?t look good for a year or two.?
    Randolph would be a nice second or third guy alongside an Allen or Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash or Jason Kidd. The Blazers don?t have that luxury, and Randolph has suffered, especially as he has continued to deal with a knee that is not quite 100 percent.
    ?It?s been real difficult for me,? he says. ?There?s a little soreness. I notice it a little bit when I?m on the court, but I try to shrug it off. It just takes a long time to fully heal. Kidd said he didn?t feel right until a year after (surgery). I don?t have the lift I had before. I?m not the same player I was, not right now. I notice it down in the paint, finishing around the basket. Some of it is mental. Anytime you come off a surgery like mine, it?s going to be mental.?
    Randolph shrugs.
    ?Wish (McMillan) could have seen me like Cheeks had me, when I was 100 percent,? he says. ?But I don?t really feel any pressure. I thought I was the best player on our team last year, and the year before that. I just have to come out and play like I can.?
    Randolph seems oblivious to a reputation sullied by his tardies during the early season.
    ?I don?t think it?s so bad,? he says. ?There have been a couple of other guys late, too. I just can?t be late no more.? </div>


Share This Page