Zach Randolph can still be productive in Sacramento

Through all but one game this preseason, the young Sacramento Kings have been led in scoring by one their older statesmen and new additions, Zach Randolph. The one who goes by Z-Bo has averaged 12.5 PPG through 5 games, serving as a veteran presence on the floor while rookies like De’Aaron Fox and Justin Jackson figure things out.

The Kings enter 2017 with a weird mix of very young talent, mid-career veterans, and very, very old players, like Randolph and Vince Carter. In order for this team to be competitive, those veterans will have to carry a load they didn’t have to in recent years.

Last season in Memphis, Randolph and Carter each played one of the fewest minutes-per-game seasons of their careers. At 40, Carter will remain in a reserve role for the Kings, but Randolph is likely to step back into a starting role, which begs the question of how much he has left to give.

Randolph, 36, averaged 14 PPG and 8 RPG last season, his first as a primary bench player since 2002-03, his second year in the league. That season was also the last time he averaged fewer minutes per game than the 24.5 he played last season. In those limited minutes last season, Randolph joined Tim Duncan, Moses Malone and Shaquille O’Neal as the only players in NBA history to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes in their 16th career season or later. Randolph is the only of those players to average at least 12 rebounds per 36 minutes that late in his career.

This isn’t to say with more minutes Randolph’s production will increase – he only has one other season in his career where he averaged 20-and-12 per 36 minutes – but it does show he’s completely capable of jumping back into a starting role. When Randolph came in off the bench, he was usually the best player on the floor for his team and the guy the offense went through. He was expected to carry the second-unit offensive load and he did, though less efficiently than when he was a starter. His rebound percentage was actually the third highest of his career. But we have to look at Randolph’s per-36 average and rebound percentage increases through proper perspective, because he spent less wasted time on the floor.┬áThe per-36 statistic doesn’t take into account the wasted minutes a starter spends on the floor with sometimes more or equally talented players who will also demand touches and make plays. Randolph didn’t have to worry about that on Memphis’ bench.

What Randolph’s per-36 stats say about his potential performance this season though, is that he can still get a few buckets for Sacramento when given the opportunity. This doesn’t mean he should be expected to carry this young group. The main reason he accomplished something no other player in NBA history had previously done is because it’s rare that a player of his caliber is ever asked to come off the bench. If we remove the rebounds qualifier, there’s still only eight different players in NBA history to average 20 points per 36 minutes in their 16th career year or later, and Randolph is the only one of those players to have come off the bench, and will likely be the only one not to make the Hall of Fame.

Simply put, Randolph is too good to come off the bench, but not good enough to not be sent to the bench, which is probably the type of play we should expect to see from him again this season.

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King’s Ransom

Not long after I graduated college, I took up a job as a server at this high-scale restaurant in suburban Maryland. While the money wasn’t great, it was sufficient for my post-graduate survival and soon enough I was promoted to head server, then bartender in less than a year.

My manager, a Napoleon-esque man with a temper shorter than his stature, ran the joint with an iron fist and short leash, but I always thought our relationship was solid. The restaurant’s owner was a wealthy man who I also considered myself on good terms with although I never took the time to really converse and build a rapport with him – that was my mistake.

On one of my day’s off, my manager called me saying we needed ‘to talk.’ Without going into the details, I was accused of stealing money.

As I presumed any innocent man accused of being a thief would do, I offensively defended myself, saying things that probably got me fired more so than what I was actually accused of doing. I was placed on some sort of probationary period while receipts and things of that nature were collected to prove my guilt or innocence.

Chris Tucker, Friday

Eventually, the evidence turned out in my favor, but the damage was already done. My manager accused me of being a thief, I fired back, and the relationship was irreparable. The owner had to make a choice as to who to side with and it wasn’t going to be the rookie bartender. I was out of a job.

In the case of DeMarcus Cousins, he’s got ownership on his side.

The Sacramento Kings appear to value Cousins as an indispensable franchise player. This couldn’t be further from how head coach George Karl (the manager in this situation) views Cousins. Karl wants to trade Cousins according to ESPN and now that this is public knowledge, the relationship between Karl and Cousins is not likely to be salvageable. For this reason, I think Kings ownership has to fire Karl.

To be fair, I think Karl is a damn good coach. Ironically, until I was fired, I thought my manager at the restaurant was good as well. I liked his style. But once a person in an authoritative role forces the hand of management by making a derogatory or negative claim of one his employees, the likelihood for both persons to co-exist in a productive manner dwindles.

If Karl’s conviction that getting rid of Cousins was the best route for the team’s success under his coaching, he should’ve expressed his wishes privately with ownership.

The fact that the news is public makes one thing clear, Karl is giving the Kings an ultimatum – it’s him or me. And if I’m Sacramento, I’m choosing Cousins, if not for anything other than a power move. I will not allow a coach to come in and force my hand as a general manager or owner – unless I promised him that type of control prior to hiring him. This is my team, not yours.