Lockout malaise got you down? Have you too taken to watching Greatest Games on NBATV every night, quietly weeping to yourself and telling your concerned family “it’s just face sweat”? Worse, have you resorted to investing emotionally in the WNBA regular season, weeping very loudly and telling your now seriously alarmed family that they “just don’t understand”? Even worse, you not only invest your affection but also your money in basketball betting just to give support for the team. We feel ya. You need a distraction. Even more importantly — if you happen to reside anywhere in North America — you probably need a reason to stay inside for 15 more minutes. It, after all, be hawt.
So let’s play a game! I’m gonna throw out a seemingly random string of numbers, and you’re gonna have to guess…. what they mean or something.
Here we go: 5, 24, 8, 3, 11
If you guessed “Jim’s winning Bingo card from last night”, sorry, not quite. That would be 8, 45, 39, 21, and 12. Let’s just say someone’s going to Ponderosa this weekend.
If, however, you guessed the number of games played, total minutes, as well as points, assists, and turnovers per 36 minutes by one Andy Rautins during the 2011 NBA season, well, you’re pretty much the smartest person I know.
Obviously, there’s not much to be gleaned from the black hole of information that was young Andy’s inaugural go-at-it. But like the over-21 paper wristbands doled out at terrible night clubs, everyone gets a KB Report Card. Dem’s just the rules.
Rautins’ college career at Syracuse may not have been spectacular, but it was certainly steady. He improved in pretty much every category, every year for four years — a resume punctuated by a senior season in which the native up-stater took a team few had even bothered to put in the preseason top 25, and led them to a Big East regular season title. Having earned a #1 seed in that year’s Dance, the Orange would make it all the way to the Elite Eight, where they were eventually threshed by farmboy dreamboats Butler.
Despite earning AP All-American Honorable Mention honors, Rauty’s final stat line (12.1ppg, 3.4rbpg, 4.9apg) wasn’t exactly eye-popping. But his impressive shooting range – just a shade under 41% from distance his senior season – and serviceable ball-handling were enough to convince Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni that the kid from DeWitt was worth the second round flyer. Even if they had no intention of, you know, playing him.
Let’s face it: A capacity Garden crowd chanting your name at the end of blowouts is only cool while it’s happening. Whether a product of D’Antoni’s notoriously fickle rotations, or a simple lack of skillz translation from college to The Show, Rautins’ rookie campaign was a non-starter. When he did play, he seemed lost — nervous, even. Many thought he should’ve been put on assignment in the D-League from the get-go. And they were probably right.
Still, it’s too easy and too early to paint Rautins as merely another in the long-worn Steve Alford mold. Unlike Alford (who played four whole NBA seasons!) Rautins has the size, ball handling skills (he played quite a bit of point whilst at the ‘Cuse), and – as it would appear from this “e-lectronic image” – desire to improve. Apparently, he also has the “pedigree.” (Although I’m betting Leo’s sextupling Andy’s rookie point output will make for an awkward Thanksgiving dinner.)
He also plays on a team that boasts at least three point guards already (Billups, Carter and Douglas), and arguably a fourth in recently-drafted Iman Shumpert. Normally, the Vegas Summer League would be the venue in which to settle this kind of roster score. But apparently there’s been some rumors going around about 39 of the NBA teams losing money or something. So any decision as to who will be the second and third string point guards will have to be made based on either a) whoever has the better “training camp” (as it stands now, sometime between Chanukah and Christmas), b) who works out harder in the offseason, and how their trainer can better relay the evidence, or c) sheer coaching instinct. Or some combination of the three.
Needless to say, Rautins might have to bench press medium-sized skyscrapers (this, while impressive, just won’t cut the mustard), or suddenly develop a 60-inch vertical, to guarantee him a spot on next year’s roster. At the very least, a more “refined” diet is a must. Barring any of that, Rautins’ status — like most everything else languishing in lockout limbo — depends heavily on the nature and scope of the next CBA. If the Knicks find themselves with very little financial wiggle room, you’d expect Rautins to be one of the first buy-out candidates. If, however, the league salary cap somehow gets raised, maybe the Knicks give him another year to prove himself — be it in the orange and blue or up in Springfield.
Is he the next Danny Ainge? Probably not. Might he be the next JJ Reddick? It’s possible. Can he play in this league? Not enough evidence to say one way or the other. Then again, professional sports isn’t the kind of venue where “lack of evidence” is any kind of defense, as Don Rumsfeld might say. Ultimately, whether Rautins is a part of next year’s squad depends on whether Mike D’Antoni sees something in the 24-year-old that’s worth chipping away to find, or whether cap space and roster requirements will render his impressive career at Syracuse a long-gone apex.
Personally, I think if you get a full second season from The Show, it’s worth the $800 large.
Report Card (5 point scale):
Rootability: Yeah OK, 3.
Final Grade: I