Cut by Wizards in training camp, Shavlik Randolph provides boost in Celtics’ win


It’s really not as bad as it looks. ( Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The former Wizard wasn’t looking for revenge. He wasn’t looking to show the team that cut ties with him that it made a mistake. He had no other agenda when he came off the bench other than to help Boston win and continue his improved play since joining the Celtics so late in the season.

After accomplishing that goal, the former Wizard expressed gratitude to the organization that discarded him, thanked it for giving him an opportunity to prove his worth and then forcing him to get better after an unceremonious departure.

Some show of maturity from Jordan Crawford, right? Except the former Wizard wasn’t Crawford.

It was Shavlik Randolph.

Remember him? For those who lost track of Randolph the moment that the Wizards cut him the final week of training camp, the 6-foot-10 forward is now backing up Kevin Garnett in Boston and playing a critical role for a team making a playoff push.

Randolph had eight points and seven rebounds in just 15 minutes of Boston’s 107-96 victory on Sunday, but the Celtics outscored the Wizards by 10 points with him on the floor.

Afterward, Randolph – who spent his time between Washington and Boston playing for the Foshan Long Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association – explained that he wasn’t out to prove a point.

“I know that I got outplayed for that spot. I’m the first to admit that and be a man,” said Randolph, who lost the final big man spot to the since-cut Earl Barron. “I know when I deserve something. I know when I earned something and I didn’t earn that right. I took it as motivation and went out and tried to take the things that I could’ve done better in D.C. and I worked on them in China and it’s paid off for me.”

Randolph is averaging 4.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 11 games since joining the Celtics on March 1. He had a career-high 16 points two nights before in a loss to Cleveland and matched his career-high 13 rebounds in a win over Atlanta two weeks ago. In his past six games, he’s averaging 7.2 points and 5.5 rebounds.

“Shav is playing unbelievable basketball,” Garnett said. “I think he’s found his little niche here.”

Celtics Coach Doc Rivers was confident enough to make Randolph his first big man off the bench to substitute for Garnett against the Wizards and reaped the benefits in the third quarter, when the Celtics immediately scored eight consecutive points after Randolph entered the game.

“I think I’ve gotten a little rhythm with that second group and knowing what my role is going to be when I go out there,” Randolph said. “It’s very simple. I know I’m not going to play extended minutes and when I go out there, it’s going to be for short periods. Just go out there with energy, rebound, play off people and if I can get some putbacks, some finishes around the rim, then that’s good. Just try to give Kevin as much opportunity to rest as I can.”

The Wizards were fully prepared for Crawford to go off, but other than a 25-second, first-half flurry that saw him make a turnaround jumper in the lane and a pull-up jumper in transition, the confident reserve shooting guard didn’t have much influence on the outcome. Crawford didn’t speak to reporters after the game.

“He was great in the first half,” Rivers said of Crawford. “In the second half I thought he wanted it a little much, but I thought for a kid that clearly wanted to beat this team like any other kid does when you play, I thought his composure was terrific.”

Randolph seemed to be in the middle of almost every big play in the third quarter, as he scored three points without attempting a field goal, absorbed a flagrant foul from John Wall, attempted six three throws based solely on being active and even got called for goaltending for being a little too aggressive on the boards.

“He was just right place at the right time,” said Emeka Okafor, who has battled with Randolph since the two squared off in the 2004 Final Four. “Shav, I’ve always thought Shav could play. His play didn’t surprise me.”

Randolph is back in the NBA after playing elsewhere the previous two seasons and is relishing his time back in the league. “It’s been great,” said Randolph, who has also played for Philadelphia, Portland and Miami. “Everybody has been awesome since I got here. The coaches. Everyone knows Doc Rivers has shown confidence in me and it’s really helped me to play with confidence.”

His hustle and rebounding made a difference against the Wizards, even if it resulted in him getting another bloody nose.

“I feel like I’m a boxer or something, I’m getting hit every game. I feel like Rocky Balboa,” Randolph said with a laugh.

Rivers compared Randolph to the late fighter Jerry Quarry, who famously got pummeled in two fights against Muhammad Ali, because “he leads with his head.” Randolph could only laugh some more when that information was relayed to him.

“It’s a blessing,” Randolph said of his release from the Wizards. “It just goes to show you, when they let me go, there were a lot of things that I could’ve done better. I went in and worked on my game when I was in China and definitely had my sights set on coming back. Worked on things that I needed to improve on and I think I did that and tried to make the most of it. It’s all kind of connected.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · April 7, 2013