IT'S ABOUT anhour after the Warriors have wrapped up practice, and the only player still onthe court is Anthony Randolph. He's at the top of the key, taking passes from acontraption under the rim that spits out balls like a pitching machine. Hecatches, drives right or left, and consistently hits his new favorite shot—a15-foot pull-up jumper near the baseline.
Last year,shortly after practice ended the 6'10", 205-pound Randolph would have beendriving back to his home in Walnut Creek. Why the change? His evolution fromthe youngest player in the NBA, at 19, last season—picked 14th out of LSU, he'sstill four months younger than Blake Griffin—to the most dedicated player onGolden State didn't come easily. Last November, coach Don Nelson openlychastised Randolph for his poor work ethic and was reportedly shopping him."We're going to put him on ice for a while," Nelson said at the time."He's just going to have to grow up."
Randolph finallybegan applying himself after enduring 18 DNP-CDs, and by March he worked hisway into the rotation. Soon his play made it impossible for Nelson to keep himoff the court. Showing versatility and athleticism, Randolph averaged 13.5points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.59 blocks in his final 12 games.
After the seasonRandolph looked to build on his progress, working out three times a day at theteam's' Oakland training center. He continued his development during the NBAsummer league in Las Vegas, where he averaged a record 26.9 points, earning himan invitation to USA Basketball's summer camp. His development and commitment,along with the arrival of rookie guard Stephen Curry, give hope to a strugglingfranchise.
"He wasn'tgoing to grow the way I wanted him to until he started working, and it tookawhile," Nelson says. "But now no one works harder. I've never seenanything like it."
PROJECTEDSTARTING FIVE with 2008--09 statistics
[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
STEPHEN CURRY (R)
KEY BENCHPLAYERS: G-F Corey Maggette, 18.6 PPG; G-F Kelenna Azubuike, 14.4 PPG; F-CRonny Turiaf, 2.13 BPG; G-F Anthony Morrow, 10.1 PPG • New acquisition • (R)Rookie, college stats
COACH: Don Nelson(fourth season with Warriors) • 2008--09 RECORD: 29--53 (third in Pacific)
POINTS SCORED:108.6 (second in NBA) • POINTS ALLOWED: 112.3 (30th in NBA)
Consecutive yearsthat the Warriors have both scored and surrendered the most fast-break points.Their 16.8 points per game allowed in transition last season were the mostsince the Raptors gave up 18.3 in 2002--03.
ENEMY LINES | ARIVAL SCOUT ON THE WARRIORS
I don't see howthis roster can succeed—it's guard-heavy with a lot of players who are similar.It's an incredibly dangerous team offensively, but I don't know if there's anycohesiveness or chemistry. I can't imagine how they're going to defend.... Whenyour small forward, Stephen Jackson, is your leading scorer as well as your topassist man, that says there's a problem at point guard.... Monta Ellis is goingto create when the defense collapses on him, but there is a big differencebetween dropping the ball off on a drive and creating for others.... I knowEllis said he didn't think he and Stephen Curry can play together, but I thinkthey should. Curry's a much more willing passer and smarter player than Ellis,and he'd enable Monta to play off the ball.... I like Andris Biedrins's game alot. He always contests his man with two hands up, so he isn't out of control.A lot of bigs are always trying to get the block, so they play themselves outof position, which can throw the entire defense out of whack.... It's been morethan a year, and I still can't believe they signed Corey Maggette as a freeagent. Didn't everyone know he was one of the most selfish players in theleague?
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH
ANTHONY RANDOLPH He's learned Lesson No. 1: Work comes before play.
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH