It’s real easy to get excited about the Warriors this week, until you realize they’ve been playing at home the whole time. Really, besides the Lakers (and only because Kobe loves playing in Oakland), the Warriors would win a best of seven against any team if every game was played at Oracle. No, not Roaracle. I’m sorry, your building doesn’t get a cute nickname until you win a playoff series in consecutive years.
But this isn’t just another woe-is-Bay-Area sports article here… (even though Andris Biedrins sprained his ankle again and Corey Maggette’s sinuses are like, totally infected). We’re still excited about the Warriors, just selectively. Monta Ellis looks healthy all the sudden, Brandan Wright played a good quarter for the first time since 2008 and Anthony Tony Randolph is revitalizing the nation’s economy. Or at least he could if given the chance, in some domino-effect kind of way. God, I wish I was in a position of power within Adidas right now. Forget all this KG/Howard/Arenas/T-Mac/Duncan nonsense. If I have any money left in the coffers for shoe endorsements, I’m throwing it at Randolph’s bony chest as hard as a Lincecum four-seamer.
What Randolph has going for him are equal parts Kobe Bryant and Trevor Wilson. Alright, maybe not equal parts Kobe and Trevor, but just the right amounts of both to make him an NBA superstar. That’s right, a superstar. I said it. Damn right I said it. I’ve never felt this way about any Warrior. Not Baron Davis, not Monta Ellis, not even Danny Fortson.
The reason why I’ve stuck through the Kobe years is because I saw it coming. The first moment Kobe stepped onto an NBA court he had two strengths that were obvious: leaping ability and fearlessness.
Kobe had other skills as well in his rookie year, even though he was at best a mediocre outside shooter. He did a pretty decent impersonation of Allen Iverson’s crossover for a 6’6″ 18-year-old, and had clearly been practicing MJ moves for years.
Randolph will never have Kobe’s handle (although he thinks he does), but he’s already become the most exciting rebounder in the league. Think about that. Besides Dennis Rodman and Charles Barkley, has there ever been an exciting rebounder during your lifetime? And it’s not like Randolph is the only 6’9″ guy who could jump high. Remember some of Darius Miles’ dunks when he was a Clipper?
Randolph is the rare 19-year-old sort-of millionaire who utilizes his leaping ability for good: blocked shots, put-backs and deflections all over the place. That’s why Lamar Odom almost became Tony’s agent a few weeks ago, dropping phrases like “Hall-of-Fame” like he was Randolph’s uncle or something. Odom’s entire game is based on deflections…to himself, to teammates, back towards the bucket. Odom also entered the league in the same state as Randolph, a multi-talented giant with the world at his fingertips, only Odom (like Miles) entered the league as a Clipper and was expected to lead the team as a 20-year-old point/forward/center. And Odom’s an analytical guy who asked himself questions like, “Why am I working so hard?” and “Is sneaking a bong on the team plane worth the risk?”
Randolph doesn’t fly through the air indiscriminately. Case in point: tonight’s win against the Mavs. When Tony put back that missed layup by Monta Ellis, it was because he sprinted down the court like his life depended on it (one of Randolph’s greatest attributes — he runs the floor like an angry Chris Paul), waited, and jumped towards where the ball was probably going to go. The fact he was able to catch the ball and make a basket while fouled speaks to the cavalcade of other talents Randolph has beneath the surface, the talents that will cause folks to renew their season tickets, to keep worrying about this crazy franchise in Oakland who can’t put together two playoff years in a row. But for now, he is a fearless rebounder. Just like Kobe was a fearless Jordan-intimidator with spin moves galore, a kid who looked exciting even while committing turnovers.
(Kobe and Randolph also share older, established coaches who relish the idea of squashing their egos publicly, something we may talk about later…)
Randolph’s also a misunderstood grimacer, like Trevor Wilson, and that’s a good thing. Just as everyone always thought Wilson was smiling while taking his catcher’s signal (he wasn’t), everyone always thinks Randolph’s about to cry (he isn’t…we think). Randolph’s bitter-beer face will work to his advantage with NBA refs however, a group who’s already seemed to give the youngest player in the NBA a little credit. Just the other day Randolph jumped into Ryan Anderson and got the call, just because he flailed his skinny arms, made a little noise and (most importantly) made a face that looked like me if I had to watch “Jon and Kate Plus 8” and “America’s Top Model” at the same time.
Which is exactly the same face I’d make if Randolph ever gets banished back to the bench. You have to admit, benching veterans is a small price to pay to see Tony fly around.