Randolph's red glare
Playing mad in positive way is rookie's goal.
By Marcus Thompson II
Posted: 02/22/2009 09:02:01 PM PST
Updated: 02/23/2009 06:14:36 AM PST
A flip switches when Warriors rookie forward Anthony Randolph hits the court, whether in practice or in the games. Something starts bubbling inside, scrunching up his face. Something hijacks his psyche, making him angry.
He can't describe it and it's hard for him to label it. Competitive. Hungry. Intense. Perhaps all of the above.
Whatever it is, it made him slap a hard foul on Boston's Kevin Garnett and stare down one of his all-time favorite players — in Boston. It provoked him to scream at Houston center Yao Ming after he dunked on him — in Houston. It propels him to give his body for a block, a rebound, a loose ball, tempts him to take his man every time.
"I've got to watch myself sometimes, that's the thing I'm trying to work on now," he said. "You've got to play mad. I'm more aggressive when I'm mad. It's not that I'm mad at a person. I'm just trying to go out there and go hard. Sometimes, I can get a little bit too excited, too amped up. I've got to learn how to control it."
Whatever it is has its side effects, too. When Randolph doesn't control it, he can regret it. There were the fights and trouble he used to get into years ago. There was the time earlier this season that he elbowed rookie teammate Rob Kurz in the chin in practice. And there have many times he has turned the ball over trying to win the game with one play.
That's the daunting dilemma Randolph and the Warriors coaching staff face — how to
curb his passion without robbing his edge. The consensus is that if it's pulled off, Randolph is going to be one of the greats. Could even be — according to Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom — a Hall of Famer.
"I love his passion. I love his fire for the game," said Warriors swingman Stephen Jackson, who has dealt with a similar quandary. "That's something you can't teach. That's rare. ... He's going to have to learn, just like I had to learn, that it's a fine line between having too much passion and hurting your team, and having passion and helping your team."
One of Randolph's strengths and weaknesses always has been what he calls his "attitude." Certainly part of his edge comes from his rocky adolescence.
The oldest of three children — he has a sister, Ashley, and a brother, Robert — Randolph had to be strong when his parents were going through tough times (they are still together).
He's also dealt with death quite a bit. He lost two uncles, with whom he was close. A good friend and former girlfriend died in a car accident just before the draft.
On a smaller scale, a childhood filled with moves presented difficulties. Randolph grew up in Pasadena then relocated to Little Rock, Ark. He also spent his final two years of high school in a new place when his mother decided to move to Dallas.
His mother, Crystal, said the move to Dallas was hard on Randolph at first. She said he got a big head thanks to awe-struck coaches, and his grades weren't up to par. There also was the element of the streets with which to contend, too.
Through it all, Randolph emerged stronger, more so than his 6-foot-10, 210-pound frame suggests. He made it to college (LSU), his family is as strong as ever and he developed perseverance.
"I think he's done an admirable job handling it all," said Will Marsaw, Randolph's uncle. "He's learned where ever you go, you are going to have challenges. Where ever you go, you have mountains to climb."
Emboldened by his experiences, Randolph has a noticeable swagger on the court, where he boasts a superiority complex and a chip on his shoulder.
Because of his talent, Randolph — whose parents are former athletes who spent time in the Army — expects to dominate. After Wednesday's game, when he posted 14 points and 12 rebounds in 28 minutes against the Lakers, he acknowledged he was expecting to play that way all season instead of being patient.
Randolph is hell-bent on proving his ability. Having been doubted most of his career because of his slight build, he's on a mission to establish himself. That's why he challenges his heroes.
When he was in the eighth grade, he played a pick-up game at UCLA. Boston All-Star swingman Paul Pierce was playing, and Randolph scored a basket on him. By the time the story made it to school, Randolph had dunked on Pierce.
"I hyped that up all through school," Randolph said. "It wasn't a good dunk. It was a hard lay-up actually. ... When you get past all the white lies, it was probably just a finger roll.
"That's how I am," he continued. "It's kind of me gassing myself up to say that I can play with these guys. Doing something to get me hype, to give me a little extra boost to say I can play with these guys that I grew up watching and admiring."
Randolph's mom said her son always been fiery. He's always allowed his emotions bubble to the surface.
That face he makes — the one that, depending on the perspective, looks like he's crying, livid or irritated — has been the one he's been making since he was a boy.
"He wears all his emotions on his sleeve," his mom said. "He's so passionate about everything that he does. That's what gives him his edge. He's still young and he's got to find that fine line between bringing that energy, but not go overboard with it. Once he does that, he'll be fine."
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