When security opened the Celtics  locker room after Friday’s 118-107 win over the Hawks, reporters rushed to Shavlik Randolph‘s locker, but the PR staff announced he had already left. The Duke product generally makes postgame small talk for a bit with anybody willing to listen, so his absence came as a surprise to some.
For the C’s, though, it should be refreshing. On the best night of his NBA career, Randolph ducked the media scrum, dodged questions that would have made his China-to-Boston journey the headline in Saturday’s papers and generally just avoided becoming the focus on a night when veteran teammates Paul Pierce  (20-10-10 triple-double), Jeff Green  (game-high 27 points) and Jason Terry  (24 points on 10 shots) all performed better.
In other words, Randolph knows his role. That or he wanted to watch his alma mater’s Sweet 16  date with Michigan St. Either way, his new teammates welcomed the opportunity to heap praise upon the journeyman.
“He understands who he is,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers , “and he does it.”
So, who is Randolph? He’s a guy Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis dubbed the “biggest recruiting bust” of the 2000s. He’s a guy who went from being a McDonald’s All-American to an undrafted NBA free agent. He’s a guy who showed promise as a 76ers rookie in 2005, shattered his ankle during practice (We talking about practice!), and then bounced back and forth on a series of contracts with the Blazers, Heat and Wizards. He’s a guy who left for China, where he found himself again, averaging 32.0 points and 14.6 rebounds for the Foshan Long Lions.
Above all, he’s a guy who wanted another NBA chance, who earned another chance, so the C’s gave it to him.
“Talk about a guy executing his role,” said Terry. “That is his role for us — come in, provide energy, rebound, bang, be a presence in the paint — and he did all that tonight. He earned every bit of that money he’s been getting.”
The Celtics signed Randolph to a 10-day contract on March 1, and while the 29-year-old didn’t see the court in his first five games, the C’s must’ve liked what they saw in practice, since they signed him to another 10-day deal on March 11. He made three appearances in green over his next five games, totaling 10 points and 13 boards in 36 minutes, and the Celtics rewarded him with a contract for the rest of this season and an option for 2013-14.
Against Atlanta, a Celtics team in desperate need of rebounding without Kevin Garnett  in the lineup cashed in on Randolph, who came one point shy of his first career double-double (9 points, 13 rebounds) in 21 minutes.
“He played great,” said Avery Bradley . “I have a lot of respect for him. He plays so hard. It’s hard to learn our system so fast, and I feel like he did a great job. … He was the player of the game to me. Shav was just battling.”
On a night when Rivers practically dismissed the one-year anniversary of Chris Wilcox ‘s heart surgery by declaring, “Now, no more excuses,” Randolph may have surpassed Wilcox on the depth chart. In Garnett’s absence, Wilcox started at center but played just two minutes after the first quarter. Meanwhile, Randolph collected four points and five rebounds during an eight-minute, game-changing 27-10 run in the second quarter.
“He does what he does,” said Rivers. “He’s proven that he can rebound, and he mixes it up. He’s been put in those positions, and he’s been doing it, so I’m really, really happy for him. I thought he gave us so much energy. You can see the bench jumping around for rebounding; that’s really impressive.
“And then I thought he did a lot of good things with the ball once he got it. Some of the times he put it back up; a lot of times he threw it back out. I just thought he did a lot of good things. I’m really happy for him.”
Rivers wasn’t the only one showing love for Randolph’s impact on both ends of the court.
“He did a lot of the dirty work,” said Pierce after recording the third triple-double of his 15th season. “He got in there, stuck his nose in the middle, got some offensive rebounds, some put-back layups, was in the right position pretty much all night. It was fun to watch him do that. You’ve got a guy who comes out of nowhere. He was in China about a month ago. He comes in here and contributes. You feel good for a guy like that.”
Fittingly, Randolph wasn’t even in the locker room on the night he proved he belonged there.