The skinny on Zach
With his skills, Randolph in good shape to help Knicks
Posted: Friday October 12, 2007 12:10PM; Updated: Friday October 12, 2007 3:45PM
NEW YORK -- For Zach Randolph, conditioning is overrated.
Now wait, that didn't come from him. Don't start cursing NBA players as a bunch of bloated behemoths who haven't run a suicide since college. Don't demonize the lot of them for Jerome James.
No, that statement on Randolph's fitness is more of a personal observation. In fact, sitting in front of his locker at Madison Square Garden, Randolph was a bit puzzled when I asked him the question: When it comes to your game, does conditioning matter?
Well, I repeated, you're not exactly known as a high flyer. So is the extensive reporting on your physical condition somewhat overrated?
"You know," Randolph said before pausing to ponder the question a little more. "I'm a player. No matter what, I can go out there and play."
The thing is, he's right. While Randolph will never win any Mr. Universe contests, the truth is the 6-foot-9, 251-going-on-281-pound power forward plays above the rim about as much as Andrew Golota punches above the belt. Randolph is a power player with finesse skills.
"Great timing," an Eastern Conference scout said when asked for an assessment of Randolph's abilities. "He's a tough rebounder, which they need, and the guy can score from anywhere."
That much is true. While the buzz here over the summer was how two wide loads like Randolph and Eddy Curry could coexist in the paint, Randolph has used the preseason to showcase his versatility. In the Knicks' preseason opener against Philadelphia, Randolph made his first four shots -- all from outside 12 feet. After struggling through the first quarter against Maccabi Tel Aviv on Thursday night, Randolph recovered nicely to finish with 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
"It's refreshing having him out there," Knicks guard Stephon Marbury said. "He's a difficult matchup."
Sure looks that way, though the adjustment period is far from over. Curry's shoulder injury will likely keep him out until the end of next week, meaning Randolph and Curry won't have much time during the preseason to develop their on-court chemistry. Marbury admitted that he has been overly concerned with feeding Randolph "at the beginning" of games; it will be crucial for the Knicks that Marbury run the offense effectively.
"This team has to share the ball. Bottom line," the scout said. "There are too many scorers out there."
Then there is the matter of defense.
"Randolph doesn't play any," the scout said. "Neither does Eddy."
Which means if Isiah Thomas is worth his salt as a coach, he is spending all his free time devising zone schemes and trapping defenses designed to take the defensive pressure off of his big men. Press more. Point Nate Robinson in the direction of the opposing point guard and tell him to cover that guy like a sweater. Utilize the defensive skills of Wilson Chandler and Jared Jeffries. Do something.
The growing consensus among NBA types is that the Knicks are a playoff team, albeit one that is likely to be in a dogfight for the last two postseason spots with four or five teams in the Eastern Conference. The talent is there. New York just has to find the right ways to use it.
Around the league
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