Anthony Randolph scores career-high 31; Kevin Love out for the season?
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Anthony Randolph starting in place of an injured Kevin Love in Dallas coming off one of the worst loses in franchise history probably wasn't what David Kahn and Kurt Rambis had in mind when they talked about bringing him along slowly.
But they may be rethinking that strategy after Randolph scored a career-high 31 points on 14-20 shooting, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals in a season-high 35 minutes in Wednesdays 104-96 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Coming into Thursday's game, Randolph was averaging 7.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 15.4 minutes in 12 games since being the Wolves acquired him in a three-team mega-trade that sent Corey Brewer to the New York Knicks.
Randolph's playing time has fluctuated -- a staple Rambis' system -- while he continues to get acclimated to his third NBA team in less than three seasons.
"He is still learning," Rambis said before the team left for Dallas. "He doesn't have our calls down so he is a little bit late with his decision making but that's to be expected. You come from three or four different environments."
Randolph showed the versatility that made him a target of Kahn's for almost a year. His game ranged from 21-foot jumpers, driving the ball to the rack, leading the fast break and even dishing three assists -- one shy of Luke Ridnour for tops amongst starters.
The 31 points were the most scored by a Wolf this season not named Love or Michael Beasley.
Love did not make the two game trip with the team to stay in Minneapolis and rehab a hamstring injury originally suffered last week against the Utah Jazz and then tweaked and re-tweaked against the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings.
Rambis told the Associated Press there is an "outside chance" Love could miss the final eight games of the season, which may be actually be a positive for the Wolves.
After an All-Star appearance and enough statistical firsts to make you dizzy, Love has nothing left to prove this season. Orlando's Dwight Howard trails Love for the league rebounding title by 115 boards with
Further, the Wolves are at the always-awkward, hush-hush, tanking portion in the NBA season where teams in the cellar are jockeying for Draft Lottery position.
After all, it wouldn't be the first time in franchise history a star power forward named Kevin missed the tail-end of the season to help boost lottery positioning.
Barring a late-season miracle, the Cleveland Cavaliers have wrapped up the worst record in the league with 13 wins as of Thursday. The Wolves are tied with the Washington Wizards for the second-worst record in the NBA with 17 wins and the Kings and Toronto Raptors are fourth and fifth with 18 and 20 wins apiece.
But regardless if you consider it tanking, there is a benefit of giving more run to players like Randolph and Jonny Flynn extended run to close the season.
The Wolves need to make a decision on Flynn -- who finished with 13 points, five assists and three turnovers -- going forward. Describing his sophomore campaign as 'up-and-down' while he recovers from hip surgery may actually be a compliment. The season was lost long ago, giving Flynn extra minutes and token starts can only help his confidence going forward.
Same goes for Randolph. The Wolves coveted him for over a year and are in love with his potential and athleticism. Why not give as many minutes as they can going into next season? Rambis says Randolph is still grasping the offensive and defensive systems but, with all due respect, the same could be said for just about everyone on the roster of a team with 55 loses.
The Wolves road trip ends Friday night in Oklahoma City before they come home for a three-game homestand against the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat.