Randolph hampers Blazers' growth

A lot of wild rumors have the Trail Blazers shopping Zach Randolph around the NBA. Are they true?

I would certainly hope so.

There are so many reasons for Randolph to be traded as soon as possible, I'm not sure I have room to mention them all. Here are a few of the most obvious ones:

• His salary is too high and for too many years. It's an anchor that limits roster flexibility.

• He's playing well, and his value is about as high as it's ever going to get. If you don't trade him now, you're probably going to be stuck with him for quite a while. And he's reasonably healthy -which may not always be the case, given his body build and his style of play.

• He hasn't been mentioned in a month or so in conjunction with some sort of objectionable conduct. This may not last much longer.

Those are just the obvious reasons. Let me give you something a little more meaningful. It's becoming increasingly clear that for the young players to fully develop, Randolph probably has to leave.

Not every game, but many nights he dominates the ball so much that I don't think anyone else has the opportunity to find a game. It's pretty much the same thing every time down the court - dump it into Randolph, spread the floor and watch Zach play one-on-one.

Sometimes he will pass out of the post -he's much better at this than in previous seasons - but other times he just heads to the basket against whatever coverage he sees. He's successful a good portion of the time, but that isn't doing a lot for the development of his teammates.

I pondered this as I tried to figure out why Martell Webster seems to do better off the bench than when he starts. Well, part of it is that he's not on the floor with Randolph as often. He gets a chance to get into some sort of rhythm.

For another team with a lot of outside shooters and not much of an inside game, he'd be just the ticket. But I think Portland wants LaMarcus Aldridge to develop an all-around game. I think the coaches probably want to do more on offense to get all the young players involved.

And forget about defense. On many nights, Randolph just doesn't have his heart in it. Many times he's pitiful at the defensive end, and that doesn't have a very good impact on the growth of a young team, either.

Would trading him affect the team's record this season? No question. In many games, he has been the difference maker. But this team isn't going anywhere this season. Player development is the mission.

But here's the biggest reason a trade should be in the offing: It's pretty obvious to anyone paying attention that Randolph has become the leader of this team. Just watch how the other players defer to the guy, on and off the court. He is The Man, as far as they're concerned.

My goodness, is that really what the Blazers want?

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