IT'S NOT ABOUT this season. That's what Warriors fans should keep telling themselves, especially after heartbreaking losses like Wednesday night's 129-121 collapse against the Los Angeles Lakers in front of 20,007 at Oracle Arena.
As overly optimistic as it may sound, the Warriors' future might actually have bright spots, if we're to believe the Lakers' stars. The compliments doled out to the Warriors in the opposing locker room seemed quite sincere, although perhaps a bit overboard in one instance.
That instance: When Lakers forward Lamar Odom said Warriors rookie Anthony Randolph has Hall of Fame potential. Whoa. That's big-time praise for a kid who coach Don Nelson stowed away on the bench most of the first half in this lost season.
Randolph recorded his third career double double (14 points, 12 rebounds) on Wednesday night for the Warriors, who suffered their 36th loss in 55 games.
* * * Randolph, Hall of Famer in waiting * * *
"It's like looking in the mirror a little," Odom said of Randolph. "He's also 6-11 (actually, they're both listed at 6-foot-10), he's left-handed and he can put the ball on the floor. He's two times as athletic as I was at that age.
"He should set his goals high. He has All-Star potential, Hall of Fame potential, with that size, his ability to put the ball on the floor, he can shoot the three, he can pass. If he stays focused, the sky is the limit for him."
Randolph played Odom pretty physically during the night, even going for a brief ride on Odom's back while vying for a rebound midway through the third quarter. Randolph said playing against Odom gave himself a peak into the future "to see what I can do once I get more experienced in the game."
"He's a great player, and someone I looked up to growing up," said Randolph, adding that their in-game chatter was all "fun and games."
Even more praise for Randolph came from Nelson: "I hope he continues doing what he's doing to stay out on the floor. In practice, he's staying out of trouble and doing what he does best, and when he does that, we're going to play him more and more."
Guess that means Randolph won't be traded before Thursday's deadline. Phew. Wouldn't want to lose another future Hall of Famer (see: Parrish, Robert).
Randolph was modest after the game: "I just try to come out and play hard, like I have the last couple games. I've got to keep working hard and remember how it was at the beginning of the season."
As for losing, he added: "We had the game won. It was just some things down the stretch. We're a young team and we just have to fight through it."
* * * Kobe loves him some Monta * * *
Randolph scored only two of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. Stephen Jackson delivered just six of his 24 points in that period. So who was the Warriors' go-to guy? The plan was for Monta Ellis to step into that role, regardless of whether he's a point guard, a shooting guard or a surgically repaired guard.
Ellis couldn't come through down the stretch, unless missed shots and untimely turnovers were what you wanted from him.
"We wanted to get the ball into Monta's hands in the second half more," Nelson said. "I don't know if he's ready to do all that."
Ah, but Ellis does have one huge fan who happens to be the NBA's best player, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
"He's phenomenal. He's one of my favorites in the league to watch," Bryant said of Ellis. "He's explosive."
Still, even after the offseason accident that shredded his left ankle?
"He's still explosive," Bryant responded. "I don't care what people say up here. They're not guarding him. He is quick. He can elevate, finish at the rim and he can shoot. I'm really excited to see him develop as his career goes on."
* * * Kobe on this year and beyond * * *
The Lakers improved to a wicked 44-10 with Wednesday night's comeback. Their winning formula: "We just kept our poise and stuck to doing what we do best."
That might be defense, considering how they absolutely suffocated the Warriors in the fourth quarter.
Asked if this game showed how the Warriors miss Baron Davis' ability to deliver in the clutch, Kobe said no.
"Stephen's made a lot of big shots against us, too, even when Baron was here," Bryant said. "With them, it's a matter of playing together. This year is a down year. They've got talent. They're going to make noise in the west, and the west is crazy."
Injury note for Kobe lovers: He took a "couple chunks" out of his left thumb when he caught it on the rim trying to block a Corey Maggette shot. Kobe finished with 30 points, the 15th time he's reached that plateau this season.
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