Just how deep are the Memphis Grizzlies? So deep that Zach Randolph’s second car is a Rolls-Royce.
No kidding. Another driver hit Randolph’s Dodge Challenger on Bill Morris Parkway the other day, so Z-Bo had to go to the automotive bench and drive the Rolls to his office (alias, FedExForum).
This was on Monday, April 9, and it was only fitting that in the Grizzlies’ 94-85 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, Z-Bo had a double-double off the bench –10 points and 12 rebounds; overall, the bench outscored the Clippers’ reserves 31-15 with O.J. Mayo scoring 13.
In this increasingly amazing season, the play of the bench, which now also boasts three-time All-Star Gilbert Arenas, is overshadowing a good starting lineup led by All-Star center Marc Gasol, dynamic wing player Rudy Guy and solid point guard Mike Conley.
Granted, a “deep bench” doesn’t have quite the buzz of, say, a Chris Paul alley-oop to Blake Griffin for a thundering dunk, but it does have a lot to do with winning down the stretch and in the playoffs. A deep bench equals dependability.
“It’s such a night and day difference from a couple of years ago,” Conley said, recalling a bench that was a purple Dodge Neon – small capacity, no power and big-time ugly.
Now, the bench play is what sets the Grizz apart. Even with Tony Allen missing the Clippers game and Quincy Pondexter taking his place in the starting lineup with Gay, Conley, Gasol and Marreese Speights (who doesn’t do so well off the bench), the Grizz started fast and kept driving.
“Who says this isn’t the starting five for the playoffs?” asked coach Lionel Hollins. “We don’t know.”
What they do know is having firepower off the bench is a huge asset. It’s why Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro ticked off the names Mayo, Randolph and Arenas along with the names Gay and Gasol and said, “They’ve got a lot of weapons.”
So far, Hollins has done a masterful job of deploying them. From beating the Lakers, Thunder and Heat on the road to beating the Mavericks and Clippers at home, the Grizzlies are serving notice: They’re legit.
“Add Gilbert and Zach to the second unit and it takes pressure off,” Mayo said. “We’d all start somewhere else.”
They’re just so many luxury cars waiting to get out of the garage and onto the open road.
Don Wade is a native of Kansas City and a former feature writer for The Kansas City Star and sports reporter for The Commercial Appeal. His column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News.