Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Zach-Hole

The Portland Trailblazers have won 17 of their last 18 the season after they traded their best player to the Knicks and the "It's Not You, It's Zach" school of thought is spreading around NYC faster than flu germs on the F train.

I'll admit that his prodigious numerical output had me fooled early on too. I can remember telling people after the first week of the season that "I don't know how it's all going to play out but this Randolph guy is for real." Likewise, writers and broadcasters loved that double-double streak he had to start the year and everyone began asking why Curry couldn't just rebound like Randolph does.

But then Randolph gets suspended for a game and Curry goes off in his absence. And then Randolph ends up in foul trouble in Chicago and Curry REALLY goes off in a game that the Knicks actually win. Suddenly we're all reminded that this time last year we were tipping Curry for the All-Star Game. Conversely Zach is increasingly like Ice-9 to the Knicks offensive flow, heaving up bad shots and seemingly never swinging the ball or kicking it back out.

Or, if Ice-9 is too obscure and dorky of a correlation then shall we say that Zach is like a black hole on the offensive end of the court. He sucks in basketballs just as his interstellar counterparts suck in light. He is the Zach-Hole.

So, I watched Randolph all night long to see what actually happens when he gets the ball. Does he ever give it back to a teammate? Does he pass more than it seems? Is shot selection not selfishness his problem? Is it both?

In last night's game against the Rockets, Randolph received the ball (by my count) on the offensive end of the court from a teammate 20 times. On 6 occasions he passed it back to a teammate but on at least 2 of these he passed it back only so that he could reset in the post and demanded the ball back immediately. Meaning he really only gave the ball up 4 times during the team's offensive sets.

There were then 14 times that received the ball and proceeded to shoot it or merely fumble it away without passing. He made four shots from these fourteen touches and all of these made shots were consecutive during a stretch spanning the second half of the 1st quarter and the bulk of the 2nd quarter. He did not make a field goal in the second half and his shooting line was officially 4 for 10 with 10 points.

After watching all of this there is not a doubt in my mind that he is the Zach-Hole. Even though moving the ball along only 4 out of 20 touches might not seem so awful for a power forward it is important to note that most of these touches are not in the paint or down low. Zach gets the ball mainly on the wings or at least a dozen feet from the hoop. In other words, he gets the ball in spots that are not destination points for your offense. It's a problem.

Add it to the list.

(I admit that I am no John Hollinger, these numbers could be slightly off, but you get the point. Right?)

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