Randolph Shows Glimpses of Why Suns Signed Him
Last week, Shavlik Randolph was working out alone in Miami, keeping his game honed after finishing out a season of professional basketball in China.
Sunday night he on the court in a Suns uniform, guarding Elton Brand to help a Phoenix team fighting to stay in the Western Conference mix.
And though there was still only a strip of tape with his last name written on it above his locker, Randolph was effusive in his enthusiasm over his new home.
“I’m just honored to be here. It’s a privilege,” he said. “Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter to me.”
The reasons were obvious in Randolph’s 10 minutes of game time on Sunday. He pulled down two rebounds in traffic, played the interior passing lanes to force two turnovers, including a steal for himself, and scored inside after readily handling a between-the-legs bounce pass from Goran Dragic.
His acclimation, Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek said, has been rapid since stepping onto the Suns’ practice court.
“He really picked up on things quickly,” Hornacek said. “He’s got a knack for rebounding. He can really read where the boards are going.”
Randolph forgives the fans who had to flip through the game program to find out exactly who No. 43 was. He was, after all, still catching up on his new team after being in China for so long.
“I had no clue they were having this good of a year,” he laughed.
Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough did have an idea as to Randolph’s talent, however. The 6-10, 236-pound big man had played in Boston when McDonough was there. He was impressive in limited time, averaging 4.4 rebounds in just 12.4 minutes per contest.
McDonough contacted Randolph’s agent to set up a meeting in Raleigh, N.C., where they agreed to put the veteran big man through a workout to gauge his current level of play.
That – combined with Saturday being the deadline to sign a player and have him be eligible for a playoff roster – ended up being enough.
“Shavlik’s a guy who, whatever his role is, he will play to the best of his ability,” McDonough said. “He’s a guy who’s not going to be disruptive if he doesn’t play that much. When he does get in he’ll rebound, he’ll run the floor, he’ll dive for loose balls. He’s a team guy. He’s a very unselfish, high-character guy and we feel that fits right in with the rest of our group.”
Fitting in is at the top of Randolph’s list of priorities. He realizes the Suns as an established team riding a wave of unusual chemistry both on and of the court, an atmosphere he has no intention of disturbing.
“It’s going to take me a little bit to figure the guys out and find my niche with this team,” Randolph said. “It’s not like I’m going into a bottom-feeder team that’s injury-ridden, that just needs a body out there to play. They’ve got a system. They’ve got a rotation that’s working.”
Randolph’s previous history with several Suns players will make that process easier. He knows Channing Frye well from being in the same draft class and from a year together in Portland. Randolph and P.J. Tucker go back to their middle school days and high school rivalry in North Carolina. Ish Smith and Miles Plumlee are also from the same state. Gerald Green played for the same China team Randolph just left.
The six-year NBA veteran recognizes not only those players as people, but as important cogs in what Phoenix already has in place.
“It’s going to take a little time for me to figure out how to bring value to this team,” Randolph said. “They’re obviously already good…It’s my job to be able to play off them and try to help the team in whatever way I can.”