Former Duke forward Shavlik Randolph, now with the NBA's Portland Trailblazers, is finally healthy again but hasn’t played a minute this season. He is the inactive 15th man.
Randolph, 25, who left Duke after three seasons, is making about $800,000 not to play in his fourth NBA season. Just when he was emerging as a regular contributor for the Philadelphia 76ers, a broken and dislocated ankle sidelined him 13 games into the 2006-07 season.
In an interview with The News & Observer, he talks about coming back from that injury, his current role, playing in Portland and where he sees his career going. For more on his struggle to thrive at Duke, check out tomorrow's editions of The N&O.
Q: What’s going on with the weather up there?
A: We’ve had some bad snow the past couple of days. This town kind of shuts down whenever it snows.
Q: Really? Sounds a little like Raleigh.
A: Yeah, they’re actually a little worse than Raleigh, believe it or not.
Q: It seems that you have an interesting role with the Trailblazers, in that you’re with the team but you haven’t played. How would you describe your role?
A: Right now, I’m the 15th man. It’s a role that I’ve tried to embrace. I think that this is probably the most talented team in the NBA, from the first guy to the last guy, and there are a lot of good players on this team who aren’t playing. I don’t complain. I go out, and I try to do my job, try to get players better in practice and stay ready, you know, [for] whenever my opportunity comes.
Q: Do you see a chance to play coming with this team?
A: I don’t know. I think I’m the wrong person to answer that. I don’t know about this year. I don’t know what their future plans are going to be. I know that I have a very good [relationship] with the front office, with the organization. I’ve done my best, and I’ve done everything I can. Like I said, there’s a lot of guys, but I go out and I stay ready for whenever that opportunity does come. There are guys on this team that do not play much that could probably start for other teams.
Q: What do you have to do to stick in the NBA?
A: You know what, my goal is not to stick in the NBA. I’m not concerned about that. My goal is to be a very good player in the NBA, and I know I am. I had a good preseason with this team, and like I said, it’s a numbers thing.
Q: What sort of rehab was involved with your ankle injury?
A: I was in a boot for six months. I couldn’t start to play for about eight, nine months, and I couldn’t start to be competitive for over a year.
Q: Any lingering effects?
A: No, it’s really been kind of miraculous in my eyes. When I was actually playing in preseason and in practice, I felt as good as I’ve ever felt. I’ve really concentrated a lot on my nutrition and taking the right vitamins and just the things that help my body heal itself. My body has felt great going into the season, and I think that’s why I was able to do well in practice and preseason. [Randolph had 19 points and 10 rebounds against Atlanta in one preseason game, eight and five against Utah and 10 and seven against the Jazz.]
Q: Was there any particular moment in Philly that convinced you that you can do fine in this league?
A: Yeah, it was actually the first game I played. I was in the same situation in Philly. I wasn’t playing. I came in and made the team as an undrafted rookie. I had just been doing really well in practice, and just basically forced the coach to have to give me an opportunity. And I went out and played 15 minutes, I think, had close to a double-double and from then on, I was in the rotation. But after that game, I was like, "Hey, I can translate what I’ve done in practice into the game. I can play in this league."
Q: What’s it like living in Portland?
A: It was definitely a change for me, because I’ve never lived on the West Coast. It’s kind of weird trying to stay in touch with my family and friends when I’m three hours behind; like after I get done with everything at night and I want to talk to someone, they’re already asleep on the East Coast. That’s been kind of hard. But it’s been all right. I came out here. I didn’t really know anyone. I didn’t know anywhere to go, and it gave me a chance to kind of get back in touch with myself, kind of stepping out of my comfort zone, because I’d been in Philly for three years. I was real comfortable with that. Whenever I go somewhere where I don’t know anyone, where I don’t know anywhere to go, I usually just gravitate toward the gym and working out, which is really good for me.
Q: Would you prefer being back on the East Coast?
A: Beggars can’t be choosers. I’d prefer to go anywhere where I can help make a contribution to a team and help a team, but I will say I loved playing on the East Coast. I loved being close to home. But I’ve got no complaints. I’ve met some great people out here, and I’ve formed some relationships out here that I think are going to last the rest of my life. Like I said, I think God put me out here for a reason. At first when I came out here, I was wary about it. I was far away from home. But it gave me a chance to get back in touch with myself and to be alone and to be by myself and not have a lot of people in my ear and telling me this, telling me that, but just kind of getting back to just me, just God and basketball, and getting back in touch with what I want to do. It was very good for me.