Baker & Randle Making Their Case

You’re an NBA GM. You’re looking for a backup, if not starting point guard for next season.

Here are two players under consideration:

They are both undrafted rookies. One stands 6-foot-4, weighs 220 pounds and looks like he could be a heckuva quarterback. The other is 6-foot-2, weighs 185 pounds and looks like he could be a heckuva cornerback.

One played at Wichita State, which has rid itself of the moniker of being a mid-major program but still doesn’t get a lot of TV exposure. The other played at Stanford, which plays in a Power Five conference, the Pac-12, and has its own TV network.

The candidates are Ron Baker and Chasson Randle, two heady, hard-nosed players.

Despite the fact that the success of one could mean the downfall of the other, Baker and Randle have formed a two-man mutual admiration society.

“He’s one of the smartest players I’ve gone up against,’’ said Baker. “In addition to his quickness and skill, he has a great basketball mind.

“Even though we play the same position, we are different kinds of point guards. I’m learning a lot of the tricks that a player like Chasson uses.’’

Although these interviews were done separately, the two could have been reading from the same set of notes.

“Ron really knows how to use his body,’’ Randle said. “He really gets up into you and puts you in positions that make him very difficult to defend. I’m learning how to use my quickness to try to offset that.

“But the thing that really impresses me is his basketball IQ. He really is a smart, smart basketball player. We watch a lot of film, compare notes. Having him playing the same position and both us being rookies has really helped me.’’

The intelligence factor doesn’t necessarily show up in a boxscore but it’s a key reason why Knicks management likes these two points to run the triangle offense.

Knicks Baker Stock Home

Baker has written a children’s book, ‘You’re Too Big to Dream Small.’ Randle’s Master’s thesis at Stanford is on race and inequality in the criminal justice system.

“That’s a good problem for an NBA team to have,’’ said an Eastern Conference scout. “Two young guys that understand the game and engaged in a healthy competition. Sometimes, everyone wins.’’

Baker and Randle have been given an opportunity in recent weeks to make one last good impression on the Knicks.

Starting point guard Derrick Rose was lost for the remainder of the season when the Knicks announced on April 2nd that he would undergo arthroscopic left knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

Baker, who has been with the Knicks since signing a free-agent deal last summer, has shown impressive improvement in his game. In the team’s loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, Baker scored 11 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had eight assists in 38 minutes.

He’s averaged 7.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 32.4 minutes over the last five games. Randle, who missed one game in that stretch with a sore ankle, has averaged 4.6 points, two rebounds and 1.8 assists in four games.

They are well aware of the irony of their situation. Rose is an unrestricted free agent after the season. If he remains in New York, the Knicks might only have room for one backup point.

“I know, I don’t think about it,’’ said Baker. “I focus on what I need to do to improve and to help the team win. Chasson can help us win because of his ability. His presence helps me improve.’’

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 2: Chasson Randle #4 of the New York Knicks handles the ball during a game against the Boston Celtics on April 2, 2017 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Randle played for the Westchester Knicks before being signed by the Philadelphia 76ers. The Knicks quickly re-signed Randle after the trade deadline when the 76ers needed to open a roster spot and released the point guard. He’s averaged 4.9 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 11.7 minutes over 16 games with New York.

“Ron and I understand that this is a business, it’s not about him or me,’’ said Randle. “Those decisions are out of our hands.

“What we can control is becoming better players and helping this franchise. Ron is helping to make me a better player. We have a few more games to push each other, learn from each other and close the season strong. I think we both bring attributes to the Knicks.’’

As that Eastern Conference scout said, sometimes everybody wins.