OK, so we've talked in general about some of Anthony Randolph's strengths and how it may portend an interesting Mully-ball era that could be the successor to Nellie-ball. After watching today's Warrior Summer League finale against the Raptors, which incidentally was without Brandan Wright ("B-Wright") due to a leg injury, let's add a few addendums for Randolph and Marco Bellinelli...
- The Warriors coaching staff (and players, I assume) are calling him "Randolph", "Randy", or "Rand", but almost never "Anthony".
- Summer League coach Keith Smart's offense is most definitely revolving around Randolph, at least when first starting the game, even more-so than Bellinelli. Smart interestingly uses a big tear-off memo pad (with basketball halfcourt lines already drawn in, of course) and a marker instead of the more popular dry-erase board when diagramming plays. Maybe they pin those up for classroom-type discussion later in practices? Early in the game, he had a picture of an "AD" circled in the middle, with another circled "1" and the requisite arrows. Basically it's the high pick-and-roll off of Randolph that you've been seeing in the Warriors' Summer League games. After the timeout, the 1 for the play was Belinelli, who came in to replace DeMarcus Nelson.
- It turns out, Randolph does have a spin move, but the one time he used it he could not, as usual, finish strong enough near the rim and got swatted. That's been a recurring problem, finishing at the rim. He either makes, misses (and 50% of the time quite badly), gets swatted, or throws his body into harm's way to draw the free throws. This is no surprise when you are rail thin in the upper body and otherwise lack overwhelming body control. Wright has the same issue. Only on rare occasions is there a teardrop swish or fadaway make by either player, and those are always kind of all-or-nothing since the defense will likely get the rebound if you miss a finesse move. Then again, Randolph is getting to the free throw line a lot -- B-Wright has not been.
- Randy's got a long, long way to go on learning the basics of team defense in the NBA. Early in the game, Smart caught Randolph with his brain stuck in neutral, in normal ball-you-man weak-side defense when he was supposed to double the strong-side baseline post. By the time Smart yelled, "Red, Anthony!" (I guess that was the one time I heard someone call him "Anthony" and guess what, he didn't really respond, did he?), Randolph was too late on the double and his original cover got the pass towards the hoop, easy layup.
- Randolph often turns his back to the ball when he is weakside, which is a cardinal sin of fundamental man-to-man defense. As a result, and with his brain often stuck in neutral on defense, at 6'10" with a 7-foot-plus wingspan, unfortunately Randolph has almost nothing to offer in the form of help defense. Someone sit him down in a room with tapes of Marcus Camby, please.
- With regard to ball-hogging in Summer League, I'll delve a bit more into this topic in my next post summarizing all the other teams I saw, but there was a funny sequence late in the game where Randy did some "ballhogging". Shooting guard Mykal Riley (pronounced "Mikhail") of Alabama was wide open in the corner as Randolph drove inside and drew one of his many trips to the line. Standing at halfcourt during Randy's free throws, Riley shook his head, turning to Smart. Smart smiled back, as he always does, and said sarcastically, "Don't get cold, Riley!"
- Wright didn't have too many flashes against the Kings yesterday, but come to think of it, last year in the regular season, he did have some flashes. So I wouldn't be too worried about it and that might even make you feel better about the potential of Randolph in a real NBA game, too. Wright is also having some difficulties with the X's and O's. On the last play, with the Warriors down by three, one of the options on the out-of-bounds was a lob to Wright, which Smart had to point out after the buzzer sounded.
Now, please don't be too concerned about Belinelli...
- Marco went on another shooting slump before finally hitting an open three, to which he shook his head, slapped his own thigh, as if to say, "At last!" However, one thing I'm impressed with is, during that whole slump, he never showed any frustration. He just kept playing. The only time he showed any emotion about his misses was when he made one to end the string.
- Belinelli has not been concerned about his point totals. Early in the game, playing point, he encouraged teammate and Georgia Tech product Anthony Morrow to shoot the three after passing one up the last time down. When Marco found Morrow a few plays later for an open trey, Marco pumped his fist and nodded in approval. I get the sense, even aside from this particular game in which he played a lot of point guard, during the last two weeks his approach to this year's Summer League has been different than last year's. Even in the previous game against the Kings, Belinelli made one too many a pass on a fast break, which led to Smart telling him, "Marco, you had a layup." Last year was his coming-out party. This year, he wants to be a more complete player and get his teammates involved. This can, often times, lead to turnovers, if not blown assists.
- Marco's passes are really pretty. He's especially good at dribbling by a pick-and-roll, then doing a no-look back to the roller. If he dribbles hard one way and the defender hedges, he'll pass back up top via behind-the-back. And one time, off of a baseline in-bound, he got stuck in the corner with a double-team, lunged almost out of bounds and somehow found a teammate on the opposite corner with a long bounce pass for a three-pointer.
- However, one of two major knocks I still have is, he's reluctant to cut inside off-ball and offensive rebound. Son, this is the NBA. The day that fear goes away is the day you become a true professional. I don't care how much less you weigh than everyone else. You need to do it to keep your defender honest.
- The other thing that bothers me about Belinelli is his man-to-man defense is, at times, terrible. Early on, guys were penetrating past him almost at will. He later stepped it up a bit, but I just wish he would bend his knees a little more and give me the classic defensive stance. Squats and stronger quads are usually helpful with such an endeavor.
- Although he does in general seem to be taking Summer League with a grain of salt, Belinelli's still got a competitive fire burning. The two times that the smaller 6'3" former Duke player Daniel Ewing scored on him, Marco came right back with a little ball-hogging of his own and took it to Ewing. The first time, he got revenge with his own stop-and-pop trey. But the second time, he got swatted real bad on help defense by one of the Raptors' frontline bench players, although he did beat Ewing off the dribble to begin with. Incidentally, the three people sitting behind me were Ewing's family members.
Other tidbits from this game...
- During warmups, I noticed that B-Wright and CJ Watson were in street clothes. Since I get nervous talking to famous people, I saw a guy who was collecting autographs of various players all day and told him, "Hey, there's Brandan Wright, go get his autograph and, while you're at it, ask him why he's not playing." After getting the autograph, which was lucky because B-Wright said no to a kid with a mini-basketball right after that, the dude came back and said, "He's got a leg injury. I told him, 'Yeah, right, you know you got that at the club last night,' at which point the coach [Smart] said, 'I knew it! We gotta do something about that, man!'"
- Laker sage Tex Winter arrived at the scene with his wife, realized there were not too many empty seats left behind the teams' benches, and proceeded to walk her, hand-in-hand, along the very visible area behind the Cox Pavilion hoop stanchions, to the other side of the stands. What a cute couple, both of them with white hair. Isn't it amazing that Tex is probably older than your grandfather and yet he's still on the bench of every Laker game with Phil Jackson? Kinda like how Alfred is to the Batman.
- Interestingly, the Lakers were about to start play at Thomas & Mack, but Tex and his wife were staying put for the time being. Last year, when Tex sat near me, he was always taking notes. I'm not sure if he was taking notes this time around. Anyways, he stayed the better part of the first quarter. He must've been checking out Randolph. After all, Tex wasn't watching the Lakers and, quite honestly, there's nobody on the Raptors roster worth looking at.
- Rony Turiaf took a peek into Cox early on, then disappeared. Later on, I caught the last 20 minutes of the Lakers-Nuggets game at Thomas & Mack and, lo and behold, during a timeout, Turiaf's rebounding for a kid who is participating in a quick free-throw contest. I guess Rony forgot the Lakers failed to match last night. I guess he didn't catch much of the Warriors-Mavericks playoffs last year either. There were a ton of Laker fans at Thomas & Mack and they gave him a nice applause, but dude, we Warrior fans are gonna love you more than those Laker fans ever could. C'mon, show some love for your new team.
- Chris Mullin and Don Nelson had a very lively discussion going on up there in the stands. Lots of head-nodding.
- I love watching Keith Smart coach. He just doesn't get all riled up and is a very positive teacher. He doesn't worry too much about the refs unless it's a blatantly bad call on Randy, B-Wright, or Marco. Even then, he prefers a tempered approach. For example, there was a big non-call on a Randolph drive, resulting in a fast-break the other way for the Raptors. He got an explanation from the ref during the ensuing free throws and actually nodded his head and said, "OK, my bad" after hearing the explanation. Lots of times when things go wrong, he'll just smile and accept the fact that rookies are making rookie mistakes. In general, most Summer League coaches are good about that and almost never negatively yell at any players (I have yet to see it happen in two years), but Smart goes the extra mile with his smile. One time, Riley stole an inbounds pass, only to dribble the ball right back out of bounds on what should have been an easy layup. At the next timeout, as Riley walked towards Smart to sit down, Riley got the patented Smart smile. Smart obviously "gets it" and I think in this day and age of NBA coaching/psychology, with the youth movement and evolving style of play of the Association, Smart is destined to be an NBA head coach someday.