There was some consternation as to whether or not Zach Randolph’s future with the Memphis Grizzlies was assured. The stalwart Memphis big forward owned an opt-out clause that would allow him to become a free agent this summer, and while it was assumed for quite a while that Randolph would opt out in order to sign a longer and more secure deal with his beloved Grizzlies, or opt in to sign a contract extension, talks between the two sides hit a snag earlier in the week.
The snag has been untangled, apparently. Randolph will opt into the final year of his contract with Memphis at $16.9 million, and he’s signed a contract extension with the team for two years at $20 million total after that. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report the news.
While there was motivation between the two sides to stay together into Randolph’s mid-30s, the Grizzlies appreciate Randolph’s game and Zach loves the city of Memphis, negotiating actual dollars and cents with aging yet still productive veterans is always tricky. Nobody likes to be told that, once the summer of 2015 hits, they’re worth several millions of dollars less than what they were worth to a franchise the year before, and with Randolph teammate Marc Gasol due for an extension and likely a pay increase, hurt feelings could abound.
It was a move the Grizzlies front office had to make, though. Because while Randolph upped his scoring average to 17.4 points per contest last season after two declining years, he’d be set to turn 34 just a few weeks after the 2015 free agency session started. Randolph’s skilled and bruising game figures to age well, but even approximating his previous salary was a no-go for a Grizzlies team still reeling from tossing out huge money to Randolph, Gasol, Rudy Gay, and to a lesser extent Mike Conley prior to the 2011 lockout.
Gay was later traded so as to avoid the luxury tax, and though the remnants of his time in Memphis are still around (Tayshaun Prince, part of the package Memphis received in return, will be back and earn a disproportionate $7.7 million next season), the move helped the team both on court (more efficient shots were spread around the Memphis offense, which improved) and off as the team dropped even farther below the tax limit.
As it stands, without counting the cap holds that will prevent them from using the entirety of this number, the Grizzlies might be $25 million under the possible salary cap line in the summer of 2015. Gasol will have to be re-signed, which takes away about half that number, and the team still has to figure out what to do with Ed Davis Jr. (eligible for an extension, a possible restricted free agent next summer) and bargain reserve big man Kosta Koufos, who is a free agent in 2015.
Those re-hires will eat up a good chunk of that space, but the Grizzlies will also be fielding a very good squad with heaps of potential to use exceptions and various sign-and-trade or expiring contract deals to add to the team’s depth, instead of worrying about having to, say, send draft picks to Cleveland just to barely dip below the tax line. It’s taken awhile, but such is life when you attempt to make up for the previous administration’s free-spending ways.
Paying $10 million to Randolph in 2016-17 might be a bit of a reach, but unless injuries hit his career arc figures to sustain enough to make it worth it.
The Grizzlies have had their fair share of coaching and front office tumult recently, with a lot of things that could have been avoided along the way, but current general manager Chris Wallace is as connected as they come, and he has a stellar analytics department to aid him in his more, um, “fanciful” (read: “let’s sign Gilbert Arenas!”) moments.
Plus, Z-Bo is staying where he belongs. Just five years after being dealt to his fourth team in two years, with his career at rock bottom, he now has a home that wants to pay him eight figures a year until he’s 36. That’s a happy ending if I’ve ever heard one.
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