HoopsHype.com Interviews

Zach Randolph: "Being snubbed motivated me "
by Gery Woelfel / December 23, 2004

You're the classic example of how the NBA draft is an inexact science. You weren't taken by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2001 draft until 18 other players were chosen. How could that happen?

Zach Randolph: The draft is about politics. Every workout I had, I outplayed everybody. I outplayed top five picks in that draft. But the draft is politics. You don't always draft the best player.

If the 2001 NBA draft was done over, where would you go?

ZR: One.

Do you remember all of the guys that were chosen before you, guys like DeSagana Diop and Rodney White and Kedrick Brown and Kirk Haston and Michael Bradley, guys who have done virtually nothing as pros?

ZR: Oh, yeah. I know them all.

By being snubbed by so many teams did that help motivate you into becoming the player you are today?

ZR: It motivated me. It definitely motivated me. But I love playing the game. I thought I should have been drafted higher; I should have been drafted higher. But I'm happy where I'm at. I'm glad Portland drafted me.

This is your fourth year in the NBA, and in each and every year you have gotten better. Last year, you were chosen the league's Most Improved Player after you averaged 20.1 points, almost 12 points more than the year before. This season you're averaging 20.6 points and 10.8 rebounds, which is the sixth-best in the NBA. How good can you become?

ZR: I think I can be real good. I'm going to continue to work hard and get better and help my teammates get
better. If I keep working, I know I'm going to be even better than I am now.

One NBA general manager told me that the only person who'll prevent Zach Randolph from developing into a truly great player is Zach Randolph. Do you buy that?

ZR: I do. It's all up to me. Like I said, I just got to keep working. I'm only 23 years old. I can get a lot better.

You, like some other NBA players early in their pro careers, have had some off-the-court issues, issues that often can be attributed to immaturity. Were your problems due to a lack of maturity?

ZR: Yeah, I was young. Stuff happens. Stuff happens to everybody. But when you play basketball, people are
going to bring up your stuff and make a big deal about it.

Do you feel more mature and have a better handle on your status as an NBA player?

ZR: Oh, yeah. Just being around the older guys I've become more mature.

Who poses the toughest matchup problems for you?

ZR: Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. The top dogs. They're just real long. And they know how to play the game.

You have the nickname of Z-Bo. When did you get that nickname, and who gave it to you?

ZR: I got that when I was younger, when I was growing up in Marion, Indiana. One of my high school teammates, Andre Betts, called me that. He got it from a movie.

You played against Shaquille O'Neal and the Lakers the last couple of years and saw how they advanced to the NBA Finals last season. The Lakers traded their marquee center Shaquille O'Neal to Miami. Did they make a mistake trading Shaq?

ZR: I don't know. Shaq is a dominant player, one of the best players to ever play the game. But so is Kobe. Kobe wanted his own team, and Shaq is in a good situation.

Which player has served as a mentor or helped you grow as a player and person?

ZR: All of the older guys. Just the whole team. The coaches, everybody.

The Trail Blazers have a boatload of talent, but they're hovering around the .500 mark. How disappointing is it that your team record isn't better?

ZR: It's a little disappointing. We got to get better and we will get better.

In the West, Phoenix and Seattle are the rage. Both teams are enjoying terrific starts to their seasons and some people are touting them as viable Western Conference championship contenders. But nobody is talking about Portland. Despite your team's slow start, could the Blazers still emerge as a title contender?

ZR: We could. We just got to believe in ourselves. We have the talent to play with anyone.

Gery Woelfel covers the Milwaukee Bucks and the NBA for The Racine (Wis.) Journal Times

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