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.