PORTLAND, Ore. - Noticing a photo of Zach Randolph over his right shoulder during his pregame press conference last night, Celtics coach Doc Rivers joked, "That guy's good. I hope he doesn't play."
Needless to say, the Celtics had no such luck when it came to the durable power forward.
was the word Rivers and Portland coach Maurice Cheeks used to describe
Randolph. What else can you say about a player who entered last night
averaging 21.3 points and 11.0 rebounds per game, who plans to add
All-Star honors to his 2003-04 Most Improved Player Award, and who hopes
to lead his team into the playoffs.
an amazing player," said Cheeks, and that was before Randolph collected
22 points and 17 rebounds in the Blazers' 89-87 win last night. "With
his ability to compete, he's gotten better every day. From last year to
this year, it's just kind of a carryover, getting a little better every
time. Every night he goes out on the floor, you know he's going to
score. But his rebounding is amazing. He's got to get better running the
floor on the defensive end. But as a competitor, I think he's one of
the most competitive guys in the league right now, and he's only 23
"He's a hell of a player. He's an amazing post player. He has great
footwork, great quickness. He's now making that little 15-, 20-foot jump
shot, which makes him even more dangerous. He's a load."
who was selected 19th overall in the 2000 draft, appreciates the
praise, but he might be the last to call his development "amazing." He
said it was simply "a natural progression." That progress has been
easier with Randolph keeping his weight down. Cheeks believes if
Randolph can keep his weight around 255 pounds he is "one of the best
players around." That said, Randolph prefers to keep his focus on
rebounding and winning.
just want to make the playoffs and go as far as we can in the playoffs,"
said Randolph. "I want to make everybody around me better. I'd like to
be an All-Star and average a double-double. I've just got to go out
there, play hard, and be aggressive, especially on rebounding. The
rebounding is just getting in position, trying to read where the ball
Nose for action
inhaling a nasal decongestant about 45 minutes before game time, Paul
Pierce pronounced himself ready for the Trail Blazers. When asked how he
felt, Pierce said, "A little sick, but I'm good to go."
his record of competing through injuries and illness, he wondered how
anyone could doubt he would play. Still, only five minutes earlier,
Rivers remained uncertain about Pierce's status. If Pierce had been
unable to play, Ricky Davis would have started.
played 35 minutes but struggled, shooting only 3 for 13 from the floor
and finishing with 6 points. He missed all five 3-point attempts.
showed up for practice Wednesday with a 104-degree fever. Rivers
promptly excused him from the workout. The captain missed shootaround
yesterday morning and spent the day resting in his hotel room and
drinking lots of fluids.
Job well done
lost the first meeting this season at the buzzer, Cheeks had a natural
appreciation for the job being done by Rivers. "Doc's done a great job
putting the team together and getting them in position to win games
because they've lost some close games," said Cheeks, before his team won
on a shot at the buzzer. "It's not like they've been out of games,
really. That's what you like to do, just put them in position to win."