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VOL. 132 | NO. 133 | Thursday, July 6, 2017

Z-Bo Leaves Memphis With Many Memories

By Don Wade

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Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50), pictured here posting up on Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova, was a driving force behind the team’s seven-year run in the NBA Playoffs. (AP File Photo)

Eight years ago this week, there was a press conference at FedExForum. The Memphis Grizzlies had acquired a power forward via a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers.

As is the routine when the Grizzlies get a new player, he posed holding his new jersey – No. 50 – with general manager Chris Wallace. That was how the Zach Randolph years started here.

They officially came to an end on Tuesday, July 4, when news broke that Randolph had signed a two-year $24 million contract with the Sacramento Kings. Hardly a cause for fireworks around Memphis.

The move reunites Randolph with former Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger. Randolph is almost 36. Point guard George Hill, whom the Kings signed to a three-year $57 million contract, is 31. The lead sentence in a blog post at the Sacramento Bee: “The Kings knew their team was too young.”

So Randolph will begin a new chapter in which his age and experience are viewed as a good fit for a team trying to find its way up from the bottom of the Western Conference in the NBA.

In Memphis, of course, Randolph and fellow free agent Tony Allen – future destination unknown as of this writing – keyed a seven-year playoff run. If there is to be an eighth straight trip to the postseason, the beloved player that fans know as Z-Bo won’t be part of it.

Randolph made two NBA All-Star teams as a Grizzly, uttered the words “I don’t bluff” in a confrontation with Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins and it transformed into the Memphis rallying cry of “We don’t bluff.” Randolph leaves Memphis as the franchise’s all-time leader in rebounds with 5,612.

Most of all, he taught teammates by word and action that when you most need a basket, “throw it to the hand.”

Only Mike Conley and Marc Gasol have scored more points here than Randolph, who was only about 750 points shy of reaching 10,000 in a Memphis uniform.

On March 19, 2016 at FedExForum, Randolph posted his first triple-double – 28 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists – in a victory over the Clippers. Allen also had a big night with 22 points. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said afterward: “It all started with Zach. He came in on a mission. He led them. Him and Tony Allen were just the two toughest guys on the floor.”

And it was true. Many times.

Now Randolph is gone and Allen’s future is uncertain. Forward JaMychal Green is a restricted free agent and Vince Carter, like Allen, is an unrestricted free agent.

More change could be on the way. Already, the Grizzlies have signed former Kings guard Ben McLemore to a two-year deal worth a little less than $11 million.

Coach David Fizdale went to Randolph before last season started and asked him to embrace the sixth-man role. He did and averaged 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds. But even though he accepted playing off the bench, Randolph never gave into the notion he was easing out of his prime or was in any way lesser.

With the Kings, Joerger will more often look to Randolph to do what he did so many times over the years with the Grizzlies – put the team on his shoulders.

Bit of advice for all those young Sacramento players when unsure what to do: Throw it to the hand.

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