The Free Shav movement has morphed into the Keep Shav crusade this summer.
The Boston Celtics have one more week to decide whether they'll keep Shavlik Randolph around for the 2013-14 season as his contract is set to become fully guaranteed on Aug 1. Imported from China late last season with Boston thin on big men, Randolph revitalized his NBA career by being a relentless rebounder in limited on-court opportunities, but his nonguaranteed contract leaves his future in a little bit of limbo at the moment.
On the surface, it should be an easy decision for the Celtics. In a league sparsely populated with serviceable backup big men, 29-year-old Randolph and his rebounding talents would be a bargain -- and a luxury -- at $1.1 million.
Alas, the collective bargaining agreement -- and the luxury tax -- muddies things up with Boston's quest to (1) cut costs while currently standing on the tax apron and (2) create roster space.
In fact, the decision about whether to retain Randolph is essentially out of his control. Boston has a jammed-up frontcourt, one that's heavy on power forwards, and if the team doesn't believe it can move one of those contracts before training camp, it might have to begrudgingly part ways with him.
Make no mistake, this decision is unlikely to keep Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge up at night. We're talking about a player who was out of the NBA for nearly three years before Boston came calling last season.
But Randolph deserves the chance to stick around. Though he had a monster season in China, where he averaged 34 points and 15 rebounds per game, Randolph arrived with virtually no expectations but pledged to work hard and be a good teammate. He did just that and, despite coach Doc Rivers' reluctance to give him consistent minutes -- igniting the Free Shav movement -- Randolph was turned loose over the final 10 regular-season games and proved he could consistently impact the game with his rebounding.
Over 16 appearances, Randolph grabbed 26.3 percent of all available defensive rebounds during his time on the floor and 22.4 percent of all caroms overall. Those were the best numbers on the team, albeit in a small sample size of 198 minutes. When the Knicks went small in the playoffs, Randolph appeared for just three minutes in one game (grabbing three rebounds in that minuscule span, mind you).
Randolph averaged 4.2 points and 4.4 rebounds over 12.4 minutes overall. He does need to improve as a defender, particularly in the post if he's utilized in a center role with Boston still thin on pure size.
With the Celtics facing a youth movement, it's fair to wonder if frontcourt minutes would be better utilized on players who are part of Boston's future plans, such as Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and newly signed Vitor Faverani (or even unsigned second-round draft pick Colton Iverson).
But Randolph is an excellent locker-room presence, and in a frontcourt that no longer has the likes of Kevin Garnett to lead the young stable of bigs, having a well-traveled and hungry player like Randolph could be a quality influence. Don't misinterpret, he's clearly nowhere near as talented as Garnett and won't be leading any big-man boot camps, but would be projected as one of only three players over 30 next season (Gerald Wallace and Keith Bogans the others).
For his part, Randolph expects to be back with the Celtics and trekked to Orlando to mingle with some of their younger players at summer league earlier this month. While there he told the Boston Herald, "I'd be totally shocked if I wasn't back with the team. I'm going through this offseason preparing to be a member of the Celtics and preparing myself for how I feel like I can help this team. And I'm going to continue to go forward in that preparation until I'm told otherwise."
Boston currently has 16 signed players on its roster with a total salary commitment of roughly $73.6 million, which is about $2 million over the luxury-tax threshold ($71.75 million). While there's no particular rush to cut down to the regular-season limit of 15 bodies, and shedding Randolph's $1.1 million isn't enough to free up enough space to get below the tax, he's still in the crosshairs as the only nonguaranteed contract remaining.
But the fact that Boston has kept him around this long, particularly as rosters across the league fill up this summer, is an encouraging sign about his future with the Celtics. The Keep Shav crusade will get a little louder this week, and if he's retained, the Celtics ought to hope it works out as well as the Free Shav movement.