If everything is everything, the Memphis Grizzlies have not-so-silently placed themselves in the ideal position in the Western Conference after dispatching the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday. If everything is everything, Zach Randolph would be considered in the top three of power forwards to play in the NBA over the past 10 years, and if everything were everything Zach Randolph would easily be seen as the heart-and-soul of a Grizzlies franchise that is in its best position to advance deep in the NBA playoffs than at any point ever. However, as is normally the case in the real world, nothing is as it seems. But the answer to this equation inevitably is Zach Randolph, no matter how that equation is arranged. When the Grizzlies need a bucket, Randolph is involved as a facilitator or recipient more often than not.
To be certain, the Western Conference picture is murkier than South Jersey swampland. The San Antonio Spurs share the same record as the Los Angeles Clippers but are sitting at sixth in the West because Los Angeles has a better record against Western Conference opponents. The Grizzlies currently sit in 2nd place in the conference, even though they currently have the same record as the third-seeded Houston Rockets. But the Grizz have a better record against Southwest Division teams. Thus, they’re seeded higher and the Portland Trail Blazers have shown themselves to be the very best team in the Northwest Division, earning themselves a top four seed, but have yet to solidify home court advantage-which is primarily determined by overall record.
Into this maelstrom of confusion and hope strides a 6ft 9in, 250 pound brother with a mean jump shot, a mean scowl and an even meaner left hook, just ask former teammate and alleged locker room bully Ruben Patterson. But we’re not talking about pugilistic proficiency, but his incredible basketball proficiency (in my Clyde Frazier voice). Quietly, stealthily, Zach Randolph is putting up 16 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting 48 percent from the field-that latter number is incredible when considering the number of jump shots he takes in the 15 to 18 foot range.
Although frontcourt mate Marc Gasol has been getting the majority of the accolades this season, and the newly acquired Jeff Green has provided needed athleticism on the wing since arriving from Boston, the Grizzlies’ heart and soul is key to a deep playoff run. While it might be true that the NBA has more high-quality point guards now than seemingly any point in the past, the Western Conference playoff contenders are rife with very good players at the four position with the likes of Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets), LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trailblazers),Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers) Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks), Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors) and Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs).
To that end, it is imperative that any team expecting to come out of the west be able to field a player who can at least stalemate the considerable contributions of each of the aforementioned players, and Zach Randolph has proven that he can at least match them from game to game. Though he isn’t the most athletic of the lot, with barely enough hops to clear a flat nickel, Z-Bo more than makes up for it with upper body strength, footwork and positioning.
The vast majority of all NBA players are more athletic than Zach. But it takes so much energy and effort to keep him out of the lane that most big men will eventually wear down by the end of the 3rd quarter, which affects their offensive output, which plays right into Z-Bo’s hands.
His 15 point, 13 rebound effort against the lengthy and lithe Anthony Davis in a 110-74 Grizzlies victory over the Pelicans was indicative of that. Davis’ 12 points were his fewest in a game in which he played at least 10 minutes since February 7. Zach stalemated NBA All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge in their most recent matchup back in March, and he played Dirk to a standstill in their most recent 112-101 victory over Dallas. He has also matched the outputs of Draymond Green and doubled the offensive output of Tim Duncan, albeit in blowout losses to the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs, respectively. Although the Spurs and Warriors have presented some matchup problems for the Memphis Grizzlies this year, their grind it out style of basketball is more conducive to the postseason than the run-and-fun style the Warriors employ. Also, they’ve taken more than their pound of flesh against the Golden State Warriors in the past but the versatile Spurs and head coach Gregg Popovich always seem to come out on top-albeit with bumps and bruises, against Z-Bo and the fam.
As we progress toward the postseason the Memphis Grizzlies seem primed to advance further than they did in half of their last four playoff appearances, ones that saw Memphis sent home in the 1st round by the OKC Thunder last season and the Los Angeles Clippers prior to that. Each of those series went 7 games.
Zach Randolph has a lot to do with that. They call him Z-Bo as an homage to the antagonist from the cult classic film Friday, D-Bo. However, as far as the Grizz are concerned, the “Bo” should stand for “barometer” because, at the end of the day, Zach is the gauge that determines the postseason success of the Memphis Grizzlies.