Zach Randolph typifies the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s a blue-collar, hard-working efficient low post threat adored by advanced stats freaks that is working in Memphis after being dismissed by several other basketball entities – not unlike teammates Tony Allen, Jerryd Bayless, and to some extent Marc Gasol.
Young big man Ed Davis is one of the misfits that have landed on the Grizzlies with hopes of resurrecting his career, and while the third year forward may not boast Randolph’s All-Star-level ceiling, he could act as an eventual replacement. On top of that, Randolph’s massive contract (if he opts into a player option this summer as he’s sure to, Zach will make over $35 million between now and next season) makes him a bit of a luxury for the small market Grizzlies, and the last year of his expiring deal might be tantalizing trade bait for some other team.
Trade, opt-out or stasis, Randolph wants to stay in Memphis as both a player, and a Memphian. He expressed as much in a recent interview with ESPN’s Marc Stein:
"I'd like to be here," Randolph told ESPN.com. "I'd like to retire here. You never know. If I've got to make some sacrifices to be here, I would. I still can play, I can still help a team out. I want to win a championship. I've made all the money in the world. I just want to win.
"I don't know yet [about opting in or opting out], but Memphis is my home. If they trade me tomorrow, I'm here. I just bought a new house. My daughters go to school [in Memphis]. That's my home."
Stein went on to infer that Randolph may be keen to take on a lesser salary to stick in Memphis beyond the summer of 2015, which would mean Zach would give up the last year (and over $16.5 million) on his current contract for 2014-15 in order to sign a longer, more secure deal that would ease him into retirement at a smaller per-year price. Though Randolph is slowing down, he is likely to receive quite a lot of interest from teams should he play out his current deal through 2015.
That is to say – that long-term deal that he’d get from the Grizz in response to an opt-out and reduced price this summer? He’d probably get that from other teams in 2015, even as he’s about to turn 34 years of age. Randolph would probably be leaving quite a bit of potential money on the table should he decide to opt out of that $16.5 million and sign a new deal with the Grizzlies in July of 2014, really putting a bit of pressure behind the whole “I’ll do whatever it takes to retire a Grizzly, because my kids go to school here.”
Of course, Zach never said he was going to do whatever it takes. He’d “like to retire” in Memphis, but that may not happen.
While the new’ish Grizzlies front office no doubt respects Randolph’s efficient work in the low post – it’s why they dealt top scorer Rudy Gay for Davis last winter – they also understand that sentimentality should not get in the way of astute roster-building. Looking at someone as impressive and resilient as Randolph as a fading asset whose future should be up for debate is somewhat cruel, but this is what you do when you want to create a championship team while working within a small market.
Zach Randolph is a giant presence. He came to Memphis in 2009 at his absolute low point, joining his fourth NBA team in just over two years, a bit of an NBA joke due to his iffy shot selection and lacking defense, alongside frightening rumors and allegations about his off court pursuits.
How long they’ll get to be proud of Zach as a Memphis Grizzly is anyone’s guess. Even Zach and the Grizzlies front office have no clue how this is going to turn out.