Funerals are supposed to be a time of self-reflection. So it’s only natural for a professional athlete, missing games to attend his girlfriend’s cousin’s funeral, to bear a solemn attitude. There he was, the “face” of the Trail Blazers on his bereavement leave, in the late hours of the morning in a Portland strip club. And he wonders why Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard doesn’t want him around his young stars.
The strip club situation was just one of many of Zach Randolph’s off-court shenanigans. So it comes to no wonder that when news came about the Blazers winning the lottery, the thought right after “Greg Oden” was “Good-bye Zach!”
For the second straight year, the Blazers did some Draft Day Wheelin’ n Dealin. They stole Rudy Fernandez from the Phoenix for some cash. They drafted Josh McRoberts (Duke), Tauren Green (Florida), Demetrius Nichols (Syracuse), and the big fella from Ohio State.
No move was more important, however, than the one that sent Randolph, the former Michigan State star, across the country to the New York Knicks. It is sad to see Dan Dickau and Fred Jones be apart of the deal, but I’d package just about anybody (except maybe this guy named Brandon Roy) to get Randolph (left - picture from slamonline.com) out of town.
The key term here is professional. Can you picture Michael Jordon, Larry Bird, or Magic Johnson abandoning their team to get a lap dance? How about Dwayne Wade and Tim Duncan? Adding the fact that Randolph needs the basketball as much as Paris Hilton needs her credit cards, and this would not be a winning situation if the starting power forward was Z-Bo.
Yes, the Blazers are losing a player that averaged 23 points and over 10 rebounds a game for them last season. However, take a look at some comparisons. First of all, body type. Randolph’s 6-9, 258 pound frame looks like he’s more doughboy than man in the middle. His replacement, LaMarcus Aldridge (right - picture from espn.com), is an inch taller and is more mobile than Randolph at 237 pounds.
In Randolph’s rookie season, he averaged 2.8 points and less than two rebounds a game. Aldridge’s freshman year in the NBA, he averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds a game. Those numbers are actually better than Randolph’s second season in the Big Show (8.4 points/4 rebounds). In the paint, Randolph’s BEST year as far as blocks per game was 0.5. Aldridge, in his first season mind you, averaged 1.2 swats a game. With the young post and Portland’s newest celebrity Greg Oden in the middle, opponents will have trouble scoring in the paint. Especially in modern NBA when “jump shot” is not found in the player's dictionaries, forcing the opponents outside is going to make Portland a tough team to deal with.
Will they lose games a lot of games next year? Absolutely. Will Roy, Oden, and Co. need time to develop? You better believe it. Will they mature, and grow to become better TEAMMATES with the absence of Mr. Z-Bo? Without a doubt.
It’s been a long time that Portland lost interest in the Jail Blazers. With Rip City’s population growing by the day, the Boys in Black in Red are finally on their way to the top of the Western Conference. And that guy that spend his time of remembrance and bereavement at a Portland strip club? Well, ladies and gentleman, Zach Randolph, now the face of the New York Knicks.
By Jesse Severson