The calendar has changed. Anthony Randolph moved up the clock on his development with a strong finish to 2008-09 followed by a breakout performance at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas that flows into another chance to impress when Team USA workouts open there Thursday.
He is supposed to be this good after 2009-10, if then. That was the thing when the Warriors drafted him at No. 14 in 2008. A lot of executives saw a star quality, but the consensus was that Randolph would need at least two seasons in the NBA before the black-and-blue marks would fully heal, maybe one or two more before he would make any real contribution and then -- if he endured the years of going for a rebound only to be hip-checked into the seventh row -- have a chance to be special. He was very young (18 on draft night, 19 during his first summer league) and very, very thin (205 pounds on a 6-foot-10 frame).
It is one year later. Just one. A rival general manager watched Randolph kill in summer league -- a Vegas-best 26.8 points in four games along with 8.5 rebounds, three blocks and 60.9 percent shooting -- and said, "He is a star waiting to happen, especially in that system," meaning the shoot-'em-up Don Nelson approach. "He's shooting the ball better and putting the ball on the floor better, and that allows him to get to spots for a mid-range game. And at 6-11, and at those places on the floor, he can shoot over anyone."
Six-eleven is correct. Randolph has grown another inch. More important, he has added 20 pounds.
Randolph's rise over the last five months led to an invitation from USA Basketball to participate this week in a three-day minicamp for young players hoping to line themselves up for future Dream Team duty. Randolph is a tremendous long shot to make the big club for the 2010 world championships and is in the mix this much only because enough prospects in the first wave declined, but, again: 20 years old, 22 career starts, zero votes from coaches for the All-Rookie team, yet on the Jerry Colangelo/Mike Krzyzewski radar.
Randolph's progress means everything for the Warriors. He had already become as close to an untouchable as a 29-53 team can have, based on a rookie season while the youngest player in the league and especially the March and April as a regular starter once injuries forced him into the first unit. The 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in 24 games when logging at least 20 minutes, the 10.6 rebounds in eight games in April, the summer league, the Team USA -- everything Golden State thought might happen did happen, only ahead of schedule.
"That's not overstating it," Warriors GM Larry Riley said. "It's kind of that guarded optimism you have."
The Warriors' early luck of so many teams passing on Randolph in the draft, when he would be an easy top-five pick if the same players went into a pool today, has become their new unexpected impact. Randolph's becoming more consistent on the boards means he can hold his own inside now and start at power forward even while appearing to be at risk of toppling over from a stiff breeze. Developing a mid-range game means he can play with center Andris Biedrins without Nelson having to fret over two non-shooters next to each other.
"I've always been confident in myself," Randolph said. "I wouldn't say [the summer league] has been a confidence boost. It just kind of shows me that my hard work is paying off a little bit."
Or paying off a lot. And a lot faster than originally scheduled.
• Blake Griffin may have just widened his lead as the best rookie heading into 2009-10. Already the clear No. 1 pick in June, the Clippers' power forward followed that by drawing rave reviews for averaging 19.2 points and 10.8 rebounds in Vegas. "He might be an All-Star this coming year," one GM said. A likely exaggeration given the forwards in the Western Conference, but also an indication that Griffin's first showing against pros, summer league or not, went very well.
• Marcus Williams, a former Nets first-round pick who was cut last season by the Warriors, tied for the Vegas lead with 8.2 assists in a career lifeline with the Grizzlies. (He shared the top spot with Milwaukee lottery pick Brandon Jennings.) Also trying to get off the deck, Adam Morrison averaged 20.8 points for the Lakers.
• No Greg Oden on the Trail Blazers' summer roster. He has instead been spending a lot of time with assistant coach Bill Bayno and will participate in the Team USA minicamp. "He's working his tail off and is in his best shape ever," general manager Kevin Pritchard said.
• One executive called Sacramento's Tyreke Evans the best rookie point guard in Sin City, an especially meaningful assessment because Evans has little experience as a full-time distributor and enters the season with a team in desperate need of stability at the position. Most encouraging of all, the 6-5, 220-pound Evans showed the physical presence the Kings love, powering into the lane and drawing 51 free throws in five games. In one outing, against Jennings and the Bucks, Evans was 17-of-19 from the line. Said Sacramento coach Paul Westphal: "I suspect he'll have a lot of years of bouncing bodies around."