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Which Z-Bo Shows Up in the Playoffs?

As the Grizzlies start their first-round playoff series in L.A. Saturday night against the Clippers it is fair to wonder which version of Zach Randolph the Grizzlies will get. They don’t have to have the monster who at times carried them in the 2011 playoffs, though that would be nice. And he doesn’t figure to be the compromised player who was coming off a knee injury last season and was nowhere near himself.

But will he be more the double-double machine from the first half of this season who earned a second career All-Star Game selection or the inconsistent player we have seen for much of the second half of this season?

To be fair, Z-Bo has battled an ankle injury since early March and even missed a few games. But apart from that, he has had more than a few moments where he looked tired or disinterested. He finished off the regular season with his 45th double-double in scoring 25 points with 19 rebounds in a victory over Utah.

But before that, he had failed to score in double-figures three times in recent games. He had looked slow, out of it, searching.

In a recent home game he became frustrated by the officiating — that’s happened more down the stretch — and he accidentally hit a female fan with the ball and received a technical. He apologized and hugged her, but throwing that ball in anger was symbolic of how much he feels the game has been out of his control.

Veteran Tayshaun Prince said Randolph is in a “tough” spot, trying to figure who he can be now. He’s not the player that could be dominant, but he also has more freedom in the post-Rudy Gay Era. Yet, Randolph also has to understand that others players, such as Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless, are more crucial to the offense now than ever before.

“He has to be aggressive, he’s a scorer for us,” Prince said. “The most important thing is, when he’s not making shots to try and stay on the offensive glass and get some easy opportunities.”

Conley was happy to see Z-Bo put up big numbers in the regular-season finale, but the numbers were not what mattered most.

“It was fun to watch him play like that,” Conley said. “He could have missed every shot and I wouldn’t have cared. I enjoyed seeing him energized and engaged.”

Which he will have to be in this series or the Grizzlies’ stay in the postseason will be a short one.

The Week & The Weekend

 

On a chilly spring day with lots of us glued to screens – computer and television and iPhone – watching the strange, sad and shocking saga in Boston, the effect of physical distance from that story can be an interesting prism.

Some might think Memphians will respond by simply going home at the end of the last work day, closing the door and bidding goodbye to this week.

Some will, but some won’t.

Some already made their way out earlier today to pick up Grizzlies “swag” at FedExForum to prepare for the upcoming NBA playoff games.

Still others will gather at the Overton Park Rainbow Lake pavilion at around 6:15 p.m. for what has turned into a tribute run for Boston that is usually a post-Boston Marathon gathering by Breakaway Running for those who have returned to the city from an event that is usually a much more personal milestone and achievement.

The Memphis event normally draws around 70. Just a few hours before what is this year a tribute run, also organized by Breakaway, approximately 500 had RSVPd according to Tina Sullivan, of the Overton Park Conservancy, which is helping Breakaway by donating the use of the pavilion.

The gathering demonstrates another kind of distance, how far we have been as a nation in that short span of time since the start of the Boston Marathon Monday morning.

Whether this weekend is a time to escape the events of the week or a time to try to put them in perspective perhaps we can come together on something very basic – just to try to be kinder to each other no matter what our plans may be this weekend.

Maybe that is how the way forward begins.

 

Breaking Budget Customs

 

The city budget book is out – Memphis Mayor A C Wharton’s operating budget proposal – in color.

It’s on the City of Memphis website and here is a link.

Give it a look now because once the City Council budget committee gets into hearings that start April 26, it is expected to change substantially.

That is one thing Wharton and many on the council agree on.

There was a bit of drama in Wharton’s annual budget presentation to the council. Put this under the heading of some blog posts we’ve done periodically about our political culture. We’ve talked specifically about that part of the culture that deals with public presentations and assemblies that at times can seem entirely too ceremonial, too time consuming and too bound to customs that once were more relevant.

The budget address is required by the city charter. It is a time when the mayor assembles his division directors in the front rows of the council chambers and talks about his plans for the coming fiscal year. There are usually some dollar amounts that come with descriptions of how the money will be used and where it comes from.

And when the mayor finishes, he usually gets the first reviews and some questions from several council members. The comments are usually a mix of praise for the administration and an indication of the budget areas some council members will focus on once the budget hearings begin. It’s also par for the course for the mayor to hear some criticism or questioning of his priorities.

Mayor Willie Herenton, during his 17 years as the city’s chief executive, always tried to keep the exchanges at this point in the process short. But he would take a few comments and questions and if a council member was more pointed, Herenton would respond in kind.

Since becoming Mayor in 2009, Wharton has been more conciliatory saying council concerns would be addressed during budget hearings.

But this week, Wharton took a different approach. His budget message was concise and general. There was no specific mention of the 28-cent tax rate hike/tax hike.

And at the end, as council members began seeking recognition from council chairman Edmund Ford Jr., Wharton left the council chamber.

He met in his upstairs conference room a bit later with reporters as the council session downstairs continued.

Some on the council were upset. Council member Harold Collins saw it as disrespectful.

Wharton said he thought the exchanges have led to “fragmented information” and “trying to make a budget on sound bites and scoring points.”

Council budget committee chairman Jim Strickland, who will lead the coming budget sessions and review, didn’t attach much significance to the change.

“I thought it was odd that he just walked out,” he said after the council session. “I don’t think it portends anything for the future.”

 

Memphis Goes To The White House

 

Most of us got our first look Tuesday evening on PBS at the big night for Memphis music at the White House earlier this month.

And if you believe, as I do, that Memphis music is something you identify by feel before you even see who is playing, you have to say the Obamas and their guests got the real thing.

I thought it was interesting to see the President’s daughters taking in the older performers like Sam Moore and Mavis Staples as their mother and father clapped and swayed to the songs.

Older people singing with passion and emotional abandon about the passages of love and life that we probably tend to associate most with the young but which endure as we grow older even if we don’t talk about them in the same ways.

And President Obama said something that I think may be one of the best expressions of the appeal of our music that makes it ours here in Memphis but also makes it the world’s music.

“We don’t even know ourselves how that music has endured for so long,” he said before the show started.

Like all music that matters, if you try to analyze the parts of the music that made and continues to make Memphis great you won’t get to its essence. You also won’t get to it by finding Memphis on the map.

If you don’t believe people beyond our city limits relate to Memphis music on a level just as intense as our own take a look at what Queen Latifah did to “I Can’t Stand the Rain” at the White House and then watch Ben Harper completely forget he is in the White House as he hits a Memphis groove with Charlie Musselwhite on “I’m In. I’m Out And I’m Gone.”

Harper’s performance is a reminder that the influence of Memphis music isn’t a museum piece to be pinned to a board and hung on a wall to look at. It’s living and breathing in the present. And it continues to connect with people who will make it their own and the world’s own for some time to come.

Run at Overton Park to Honor Boston

Breakaway Running is hosting a run Thursday night (April 18) at 6:15 p.m. through Overton Park to honor those affected by the bombings during the Boston Marathon earlier this week.

The approximately 2.6-mile run will start and end at the Rainbow Lake Pavilion. A party at Slider Inn will follow with music by the Michael Brothers Band.

It’s free to run, and donations will be taken to be sent to Boston.

More info here.

UPDATE: This event has been moved to Friday, April 19, at 6:15 p.m. to accommodate bad weather coming into the area Thursday.

Dansette

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