It has been said that when one door closes, another one opens. In the case of Shavlik Randolph, the door doesn’t really seem to close with the Boston Celtics.
Randolph was in his second stint with the team this season. He first played for the Celtics in 2013, and was re-acquired from the Phoenix Suns as part of the three-team Austin Rivers trade in January.
On Monday, the Celtics waived Randolph and subsequently signed Chris Babb to a multi-year contract. That afternoon the team discussed the situation with Randolph, who had an expiring contract, and he expressed he would not want to sign a non-guaranteed deal for the upcoming season. Randolph would like to keep his options open, including the possibility of returning overseas to China with the intention of returning to the NBA in February, as he has done in the past.
“As much as I would have loved to finish the season and playoff run with this team, I just wasn’t willing to commit to a non-guaranteed deal for next season,” Randolph told Basketball Insiders. “So they had to do what was best for them, which I completely understand.”
Randolph and the Celtics parted ways for a second time on good terms, he said.
“I said, ‘I don’t know who I’ll be with next season or whatever is going to go on, but I want you guys to know I would welcome any opportunity to come back here if it presented itself,’” Randolph recounted. “They told me the feeling was the same, I was always welcome back here, and that was something we could explore down the road.”
This season Randolph, 31, was happy to be back in the city he had enjoyed so much two years earlier. The last time he was on the Celtics, he was part of a veteran team that had head coach Doc Rivers and veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. This time around, he was playing for an emerging head coach with young teammates fighting for a postseason berth.
“The Celtics’ fans are so loyal,” Randolph said. “I’m getting messages like you would’ve thought I averaged 20 and 10 and got two rings or something. I loved the guys and I loved working under Brad Stevens. He is a better coach than advertised. He’s going to be hugely successful in the NBA.”
Randolph suffered a strained left hamstring early into his return, which sidelined him as the Celtics established successful rotations. He appeared in five games, averaging 1.4 points and 2.4 rebounds in five minutes. The playing time didn’t deter him; he was glad to be part of a group that was hitting its stride as the playoffs neared.
“I was so happy to join the team around the time they kind of turned it around to see how well the guys were playing,” Randolph said. “Although my time on the court was limited, I absolutely cherished getting to learn under Brad Stevens. I took a lot from that. I sincerely do hope at some point I will get the opportunity to do that again for a longer period of time.”
During his time on the sidelines, Randolph formed a special bond with another veteran. He sat next to Gerald Wallace and got to know the 14th-year player well.
“Oh man, that’s my guy,” Randolph said. “I might miss our analysis and our talks at the end of the bench during the games more than anything these last four games. We were the two oldest guys on the team by a long shot. I didn’t know him well before this, but he’s a great basketball mind and we had great banter and challenged each other from a basketball point of view. I loved hearing his opinion, he liked hearing what I had to say, we just had some great discussions. I feel like I became more knowledgeable about basketball from my conversations with him.”
Randolph will take what he learned from his time on the Celtics to his next basketball destination. He has had success playing in China, and will weigh his options from the NBA and overseas for next season. His objective is to earn a spot in a rotation, a goal he has been working toward since breaking his ankle during his second year, and understands he may be able to get the necessary minutes by spending time in China first.
“I still have a few years left to be in my prime and that’s something I want to prove,” he said. “In the NBA, it is 100 percent about timing and opportunities.”
Randolph will return home to North Carolina and get an early start on his offseason training. He has learned over the years the road to the NBA isn’t always a direct route, but he knows where he wants to end up again.
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