2009 began with bad news for Golden State's Anthony Randolph.
As a rookie he struggled to gain traction in the Warriors' rotation, but things hit bottom on January 2nd when coach Don Nelson told reporters that Randolph needed to, "grow up," after a loss to the Timberwolves.
10 months, an offseason and one position change later, Randolph might be the only silver lining of the Warriors' dismal start.
"We switched him to center and it's been a very positive thing for him," Nelson said of Randolph who entered the NBA as a small forward. "He's had his best games there. He's now gaining confidence and he's able to play consistent minutes there. He's doing a terrific job at the backup center position. I'm going to keep him there as long as I can."
For the 6-10 Randolph, there hasn't been any one significant change. Instead a smattering of transformations has propelled him into a scoring threat.
"I think just experience (made me better)," Randolph told HOOPSWORLD. "I think I know how to play within myself better. I go out there and do what I need to do and don't stray away from that and try to make spectacular plays all the time."
Instead, Randolph is making the smart and efficient plays.
Heading into Friday he was averaging four free throws per game – 2.4 more per game than last year – and getting fouled on over 22% of his field goals according to 82games.com. Randolph has also bumped his percentage at the line up to 87.5% from 71.6% last season.
Another improvement Randolph has made is with his shot selection. Sure, Randolph's shooting percentage has decreased (understandable considering he shoots over three more shots per game this season), but he's getting into the lane with more frequency and making opponents pay when he gets there.
During Randolph's best game of the year – a 23-point performance in a win over Minnesota – the former LSU Tiger hit seven of his eight field goals in the paint while picking up three blocks and three steals.
For Randolph, the center position may not be ideal. He is out-sized and out-massed on nearly every possession.
"(The) biggest challenge is the size," said Randolph of facing opposing centers. "But I think my quickness kind off offsets that."
And with that quickness, Randolph is draw centers out on the perimeter where he has the space to shoot over them or take them off the dribble.
"A lot of times centers aren't used to that," he said. "They have to go out there and move their feet and guard people so I have a little advantage in that sense."
Randolph has also been working tirelessly to get his perimeter jump shot in order. Before games he can often be found working with assistant Russell Turner well before some of his teammates are even in uniform.
He's made only one career 3-pointer, but Turner keeps Randolph a half step within the arc where he looks like a natural. Randolph's left-handed stroke delivers the ball from well above his head making the jumper nearly impossible to block.
And even though he wasn't being guarded, Randolph's shot was still impressive simply for the fact that it minimally disturbs the net as it passes through the cylinder.
Randolph's growing maturity has been a tremendous boon when it comes to things such as taking extra jump shots or becoming a true student of the game.
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"I didn't have to watch film at LSU," he said. "I'm in the process of learning how to watch film and stuff like that. So, (I'm) just being a better student and using my mind more than just my athletic ability and quickness."
So far this season Randolph's Player Efficiency Rating is better than that of Kevin Garnett, LaMarcus Aldridge, David West and Carlos Boozer, but that could all change when Andris Biedrins and Brandan Wright return from injury.
What matters is that the Warriors were in need of a center and Randolph selflessly stepped in to fill that roll even though it might not fit his specific skills.
"(Nelson) told me about (switching to center) a couple of weeks ago," explained Randolph. "I didn't have a reaction. (I just went) out there and played basketball.
"Just wherever my team needs me to play and wherever they feel I have the best opportunity to help the team win (is where I'll be)," Randolph added.
And thanks to that positive attitude, 2009 has turned out to be a very good year for Randolp
whats funny is alot of people on here(including me) said this idea was dumb even in a limited capacity but it seems it wasnt such a bad idea
of course they still stink though..lol
I disagree with the idea.
I say play him more as the 3 man.
Don Nelson needs to be FIRED. Immediately. Randolph is so talented it doesn't matter where he plays. What matters is the inexcusable amount of playing time he's getting. How is this kid not averaging 30 minutes per game? Why is Mikki Moore playing over him? Ah! The Warriors organization is so frustrating! Anthony Randolph should be becoming a star right now instead he's relegated to nights of only 6 minutes playing and even when he does get on the floor its usually for barely 20 minutes.
FIRE DON NELSON
lol..i agree...i just dont understand how people can get on curry and dismiss the fact that nelson is crazy yet the first thing out there mouth is how nelson doesnt know what hes doing when he doesnt play randolph like he should