By adding Randolph, Blazers attempt to fill a hole
TUALATIN, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers added one more piece to their fractured puzzle Wednesday, signing free agent forward Shavlik Randolph to a non-guaranteed contract.
Randolph’s signing marks his second run with the Blazers. He played in 10 games for Portland in 2008-09, averaging 1.8 and 1.8 rebounds.
“It feels good to be back home,” Randolph said. “This became my home. Just the guys on the team became like my family. And I missed them even when I wasn’t here.”
The 6-foot-10, 236-pound Randolph was activated for Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Rose Garden.
He is expected to provide Portland with depth at the center position, which has been a weak point following season-ending injuries to centers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla.
“Obviously, they need help down low a little bit, with so many big guys getting hurt,” Randolph said.
Blazers coach Nate McMillan said he expects Randolph to do more than just sit the bench. McMillan stated that, since Randolph played with Portland last season, he understands the team’s system and should be able to step in and contribute without having to go through a learning process.
“He’s familiar with what we try to do,” McMillan said. “And we liked him last year. So, we had an opportunity to get him back.”
Randolph, who played college ball at Duke University, has been on four teams during his five-year NBA career. He saw action in two games for the Miami Heat this season, averaging 1.0 points and 3.5 rebounds.
He was waived by the team Dec. 14.
“When Miami released me, and a lot of injuries came up with the Blazers, we started talking,” Randolph said. “And every couple days, we’re talking more. And then I got the phone call yesterday, saying that they’re ready to pull the trigger. And, like I said, it’s such a blessing; I’m so privileged to be back here.”
With Randolph’s addition, the Blazers’ roster now stands at 16. Portland has used two NBA hardship exemptions this season, the second being Randolph, which the league approved today.
Tom Penn, Blazers vice president of basketball operations, said the team still has one exemption remaining. The spot was originally filled by forward Anthony Tolliver, who was waived Tuesday.
Penn stated that Portland must re-apply to the NBA every two weeks to keep the exemption open. Whether the Blazers will use the opening is complicated by the fact that non-guaranteed contracts become guaranteed Jan. 10, Penn said.
“The player has to clear waivers by Jan. 9. So you have until Jan. 6 to get that done,” Penn said. “And with this relief offered by the league, it’s supposed to be short-term relief. … So, all that factors into decisions, when you look at our schedule.”
To keep Randolph, the team will likely have to waive him Jan. 6, allow him to clear waivers, and then sign him to a 10-day contract. If this happens, Randolph would be allowed to stay with the Blazers until injured players Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum return to action.
Meanwhile, McMillan also addressed the departures of forward Anthony Tolliver and guard Patty Mills. While Tolliver was waived, Mills was assigned to Portland’s NBA Developmental League affiliate, the Idaho Stampede.
McMillan said Tolliver was a good fit when the Blazers were lacking depth at the forward position. However, rookie Jeff Pendergraph returned from a hip injury sooner than expected. At the same time, Przybilla received a season-ending knee injury. Thus, Portland’s needs transferred to the center position — which Randolph can play — and Tolliver became expendable.
As for Mills, McMillan said the rookie is expected to use his time in the D-League to work on his game. Mills had yet to play for the Blazers this season, due to his recovery from preseason foot surgery. However, he had recently practiced with the team, and traveled with Portland on its recent road trip.
“It will be good for him to get out on the floor and play,” McMillan said. “And we thought that was the best move for him.”
Interview with Tom Penn, Blazers vice president of basketball operations, about Randolph, Tolliver and hardship exemptions.