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VOL. 132 | NO. 159 | Friday, August 11, 2017

Arrested in LA, Z-Bo Will Remain a Hero in Memphis

By Don Wade

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Zach Randolph

Change the location. Change the month and the year, too.

Instead of Sacramento Kings free-agent signee Zach Randolph being arrested at the Nickerson Gardens housing project in Watts in August of 2017, our beloved Z-Bo is arrested here.

At, say, Foote Homes in April of 2014 – the year after the Grizzlies’ run to the Western Conference Finals, and just days before the next postseason is set to begin.

How would you feel then?

Or, better question, could that have ever happened?

Randolph, 36, was arrested on Wednesday, Aug. 9, by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for possession of marijuana with intent to sell – the latter being a felony and based on the quantity of weed he allegedly was holding. Another man was arrested for carrying a gun as an ex-convict and police seized two guns and impounded two vehicles during the arrests.

Raymond Brothers, Randolph’s agent and attorney, told the Associated Press on Thursday, Aug. 10: “The charges are false and misleading. We’re looking at all options to resolve this matter.”

A Los Angeles TV station reported that Randolph and two other men fled the area when deputies came to break up an unruly crowd. Police cars were vandalized and people were blocking a street. Randolph was brought out of a nearby housing unit and detained on $20,000 bond.

Surprised by this? Shocked?

Or were you stunned that the rehabilitated Randolph – at least that was the public perception – made it through eight seasons in Memphis without anything like that happening here?

Truth is, there was a persistent and widespread rumor around town that Randolph had nothing to fear from our local law enforcement. That his value to the hometown NBA team and his good works in the community, which were many and substantial, outweighed any need or desire to curtail his lifestyle or intrude upon any ancillary business with which he might be associated.

And yes, I just talked around things on purpose. Consider it an echo to the way things were while Randolph lifted this team onto his shoulders and started carrying it places it had never been.

Because make no mistake, on the court Z-Bo was the chief difference-maker, the player who most brought a new level of respect and toughness to the Grizzlies. Tony Allen played his part, sure, but with his limited offense he was Randolph’s wing man.

Yes, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley eventually became the team’s best players. But that took time. And no small point: They both come from privilege. They are appreciated and even adored, but not beloved at the grassroots level the way Zach Randolph has been. That, of course, is very much a Memphis thing.

When Z-Bo told Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins, “I don’t bluff,” we knew he was being real and we nodded along. Memphis has felt better about itself during this seven-year Grizzlies playoff run – no shame in that, by the way – and Randolph was the instigator in the best possible sense.

So if you’re a cop in Greater Memphis, maybe you’ll cuff anybody who is even one step outside the law. Then again, maybe you ask – or your superiors ask – where is the benefit to crashing the civic party just because a star player might enjoy smoking a plant that today is legal for recreational use in eight states and the District of Columbia?

Yet there were all those incidents – red flags – before Randolph arrived. Remember those? He once punched Portland teammate Ruben Patterson in the face, breaking his eye socket. That was 2003 and that same year he was charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants (pot).

Over the next few years Randolph was never far from trouble – from a citation for street racing in downtown Portland in the wee hours of the morning to reportedly lying to investigators about a nightclub shooting that ultimately resulted in his brother receiving a three-year prison sentence.

Remember the Portland JailBlazers? Z-Bo helped inspire that nickname.

Even after coming to Memphis, there were unsettling incidents that didn’t stick or really stain Randolph’s reputation here. A close friend was arrested in Indianapolis in 2010 on charges of possessing and dealing marijuana and was driving a Cadillac Escalade registered to Randolph, who is originally from Marion, Ind. More disturbing were media reports citing a probable cause affidavit filed in Marion County Superior Court identifying Randolph as a “financier” for known drug dealers.

And then there was the story from 2011: At Randolph’s Portland-area mansion a man told police he was there to sell pot at a party when he was beaten bloody with pool cues.

Our reaction in Memphis? Hahaha, Z-Bo’s dope dealer got the doobie beat out of him!

Sacramento gave Randolph a two-year, $24 million contract this summer. If the past is any indication, Randolph will come out of his current case with only scratches. He might serve a short suspension at the behest of the NBA or the Kings, but ultimately he’ll do his low-post thing on the court for Dave Joerger.

Which means Randolph will return to FedExForum this season, to the place where he made two NBA All-Star teams. He will be introduced into the Kings’ starting lineup and fans – many wearing their No. 50 Grizzlies jerseys – will stand and roar.

And then Z-Bo, who can turn on the charm and be as cuddly and lovable as a huge stuffed teddy bear, will flash that giant grin and perhaps fling his headband into the crowd.

It will feel good, like family coming home for the holidays. And when you’re with family, at the end of it all, you’re safe.

No harm to Memphis, no foul.

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