When Shavlik Randolph signed with the Celtics in March, he didn’t expect his time playing under Doc Rivers would end just a few months later in June. He had heard talk of a Rivers trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, but he has been playing basketball long enough to know not every rumor turns into reality. This one did.
“My reaction when I heard about it, I was I shocked,” Randolph told CSNNE.com in a telephone interview Wednesday. “There’d been so many rumors for so long, I just thought it was more rumors going around. When I found out it actually happened, I was just kind of shocked. It was crazy to see him leave.” Rivers made a major impact on the 29-year-old big man. He saw potential in Randolph, who had been trying to establish himself after years moving around the NBA and overseas. Randolph earned playing time in the Celtics rotation under Rivers, averaging 4.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 12.4 minutes per game. He posted season-highs of 16 points and 13 rebounds on separate occasions.
“He was so pivotal for me,” said Randolph. “Just having confidence in me to come in with really no practice time or joining the team at the end of the season and having the confidence to throw me in games, I was able to improve while we went on. Having a coach like Doc Rivers co-sign on me and have confidence in me on the sidelines, it meant a lot for my own personal confidence and it really helped me to play better.”
For those reasons, Randolph will miss Rivers on the Celtics sidelines but isn’t harboring ill-will.
“You can’t know Doc Rivers and not want the absolute best for him and whatever is going to make him happy,” said Randolph. “I wasn’t there the year he hung the championship banner, I was there for two or three months and he made a huge impact on me, made me a heck of a lot better. I’m sure I can speak on anybody that’s played for him – they’d love to be able to play for him as long as possible. But like I said, people have to do what’s best for them and you can’t know Doc Rivers and not want what’s best for him.
He’s not just a coach, he became a friend, so I can tell you one thing – the Clippers just got a heck of a lot better.”
Randolph is already incorporating what he learned from Rivers into his offseason workouts and training, which he has been doing at the Celtics practice facility in Waltham, Mass., and in his home state of North Carolina. He is focused on playing with high energy, hustling and “trying to rebound the heck out of the ball” – fundamentals of the Celtics system. Randolph, 6-10, is also putting on muscle to better defend centers at the five spot and is improving his mid-range jumpshot to expand his game.
“I’m going to take when I set screens, I’m going to dive really hard to the basket," he said, laughing, of what he will take from his time with Rivers. “I need to shoot free throws better, I need to run the floor 100 percent at all times. Doc made it real simple for me. The things I was supposed to go in and do in the game, he simplified it for me to the point where the game and my role was very easy. It helped me to play well; it helped me to have good production when I was out there.”
The Celtics have a team option on Randolph for next season (Aug. 1 deadline). He hopes they will exercise it and is approaching his summer with the mindset of wearing green and white again.
“I’m preparing to be a Boston Celtic next season and I’m going to move forward with that preparation until I’m told otherwise,” he said. “I’ve had great conversations with the team and I feel like I’m part of the team, but I obviously know it’s a business and there are big changes being made. … Nothing is guaranteed for a guy like me when a team has an option on a player. I felt good about what I did last season and I really hope that it can work out that I’m back with the team next season. But regardless, I’m working to become better and really trying to have the most productive offseason I’ve had in a long time for whoever I end up playing for, but I really do hope I can be back with Boston.”