The man is on the trading block.
No, really. Less than three full months into the first season of his tenure in New York, Zach Randolph is being shopped by Isiah Thomas. The Oregonian's John Canzano reports that rumors have Randolph likely to end up in Milwaukee. The Knicks -- headed by one of the league's worst general managers -- are allegedly ready to pull the plug on their association with the man who doubles as their leading rebounder and second leading scorer. And said GM is right this time around.
Each step Isiah Thomas takes closer to dealing Zach Randolph is one step closer to illuminating just how smart Kevin Pritchard was last summer when he moved Randolph to the Knicks for underachieving big man Channing Frye and in-need-of-a-big-buyout Steve Francis. At the time, many of us pundits suggested that KP didn't come even close to getting enough for a 26-year-old coming off a season of 23.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. The many are hopefully quickly coming to the realization that becomes more clear with each passing game in New York and Portland: No matter how gaudy the numbers are, simply getting rid of Zach Randolph is more than any team could ever consider enough.
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Zach Randolph may be the Association's poster boy for addition-by-subtraction right now.
The Blazers dumped Randolph for a backup big and a guard they immediately got rid of and proceeded to lose for the season the franchise big they had just drafted, and they took a quantum leap forward. That is in no small part due to the loss of Randolph's negative influence in the locker room and his vacancy on the floor, which forced the team to become a more balanced unit and allowed the Blazers to have better defenders on the floor.
Meanwhile, while the Blazers flourish, Randolph is currently one of the primary factors involved in the current destruction of the New York Knicks. Of course, one wouldn't be so grandiose as to suggest that Randolph is anywhere close to making up all of the vast catastrophe occurring in the Sizable Apple these days, but so far as the 2007-08 incarnation of the 'Bockers is concerned, Z-Bo is as much of a reason as any as to why this team loses on a night-to-night basis.
No matter what the points and boards say, Zach Randolph's presence will more often than not be far more of a detriment to his own team than to the opponents. On the offensive end of the floor (the part of the game he actually plays), Randolph gets his points but monopolizes the ball on offense and generally doesn't make his teammates better. He doesn't move well without the ball and doesn't work hard on his positioning before the ball gets to him in the post. In order to be effective, Z-Bo almost invariably needs the ball in the high post or on the right wing, such that he can take his several jab-steps before settling on any of his three primary options: a jumper from the wing, a running lefty baby hook into the midst of the lane or a drive down the right base line. He isn't a great passer, so once he gets going in the high post, the possibility of another Knick getting a good look before a Randolph shot goes up is highly questionable.
Folks, that last paragraph describes the strongest part of Zach Randolph's game. It is all downhill from here.
To describe him as a terrible defensive player is unjust. If Randolph were a great offensive player who gave his all defensively but just wasn't good enough, well, that at least might be tolerable. But it isn't the case. Instead, he is a talented (that would be 'talented', not 'great'; big difference) scorer who can't be bothered to be remotely interested in the most effort-based portion of the game. The truth is that he may have eclipsed team and league leader Eddy Curry in "possessions loafed back on defense" on the season, and once he manages to get down to the other end of the floor, his best function is to take up space. Randolph doesn't seem to "do" defensive rotations, doesn't close out on shooters and flatly refuses to help on penetrating guards and slashers.
He just doesn't care. For all the heralding that goes on of his hard work in the weight room during the off-season year after year, the man puts absolutely zero into the game's most effort-oriented component. He cares about getting his and filling up the stat sheet. It is evident in the lack of effort defensively. It is evident in the body language that indicates that in Zach's mind, the next possession on which he isn't fouled will be the first. Similarly, the next time he commits a foul will be the first as well.
It is particularly evident when he makes the most deplorable defensive play the NBA has seen in several years, as detailed in my Pacers-Knicks Babblings back in mid-December:
- [Randolph] deserves his own bullet point for the most criminal defensive play of the night, which came at 1:20 of the second quarter. After an Indy miss, Randolph failed to get a rebound, as Troy Murphy tipped it away from him. As Murphy dribbled the ball back to the right wing to reset the offense, Randolph tilted his head, tugged his jersey, yelled at the referee, and walked around in a circle. All of this occurred just outside the low block, ten feet away from Murphy, who calmly spotted up and canned a trey with no defender within miles of him. Unpardonable.
- Once again, diehard Knicks fan and Money from the Parking Lot author Bill 'Willy Po' Powell joined me in attendance of this game. His thoughts after the fact were brief: "I called 'em like I saw 'em tonight. I saw Zach Randolph. I called him a bum. Easy." He also insisted on replaying the aforementioned Randolph play 15 times when watching the game film later. Yeesh.
Zach Randolph couldn't behave on or off the floor in Portland (think fights with teammates, strip club grieving practices). His departure was one of the best moves the franchise has made in the last decade. He hasn't gotten himself in off-court trouble in New York yet, but for all his points and boards, he has given his own team all the trouble it can handle on the court this season. The man is not a winner.
What Isiah Thomas can get from the Milwaukee Bucks -- or any other suitors -- for Zach Randolph doesn't even matter. Getting rid of one of the league's biggest problems is all that does at this point.