Zach Randolph Day in Memphis

Mayor A C Wharton has declared today, December 27th, 2013, Zach Randolph Day.  Zach will appear at Walmart Neighborhood Market (2856 Hickory Hill Ext., Memphis 38115) at 4 p.m.  The event will benefit Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

In celebration of the mayor’s proclamation, take some time to get lost in ZBo’s greatest moments on the court with Memphis:

March 6th, 2011. Game winner in Dallas:

Game 3 vs San Antonio, 2011. ZBo 3 pointer seals first home playoff victory in franchise history:

Game 6 vs. San Antonio, 2011. Clinches first playoff series victory in franchise history:

ZBo gets tough with Perkins:

Zach goes for 38 and 21 against Phoenix in 2012:

Games 3 and 4 vs. L.A., 2013:

Game 6 vs. L.A., 2013. Memphis gets revenge over the Clippers:

The Chokehold:

The Ejection:

Game 5 vs Thunder, 2013. Sends Memphis to first Western Conference Finals in franchise history:

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ZBo, Mayor of Memphis

The brief uneventful stay that was the “Tennessee Oilers” of 1997 left Memphis sports fans with a void that would not be filled until the Grizzlies relocated from Vancouver to Memphis in 2001.  “NBA Now!” was the rally cry, as people donned t-shirts and lawn signs lined the streets.  The benefits of adding a professional sports team seemed obvious: entertainment for locals, economic development downtown, and national recognition for the city.  However, as the holiday season nears full throttle with [insert peppermint/gingerbread guilty pleasure of choice], Memphians caught a glimpse of a much less obvious benefit to hosting an NBA franchise.

Near the end of blowout loss to rival OKC, Zach Randolph took time to do the following:

That’s some great stuff, and is just one of the many examples as to why fans around town consider ZBo the de facto “Mayor of Memphis”.  He takes care of the city.  Just recently, Zach was awarded the NBA’s Kia Community Assist Award for a multitude of service.  Students at Booker T. Washington and Hamilton High School saw Zach distribute 900 Thanksgiving baskets, and some even scored tickets to a Grizz game. 300 lucky kids received winter coats at A.B. Hill Elementary School.  Additionally, ZBo gave away 500 turkeys and 500 hams to families in Marion, Indiana, his hometown.  He was also recognized with the same honor (Kia Community Assist) in February of this year, nearing the end of last season.

While Zach is getting the spotlight (and deservedly so) for his contributions to the community, the entire franchise has placed a premium on giving back to those who go crazy for them in the stands.  The Memphis Grizzlies were named Beyond Sport’s Team of the Year in 2012.  Beyond Sport is a global organization that promotes, develops, and supports the use of sport to create positive social change across the world.  That’s right, out of every professional sports franchise in the world, the Grizzlies were recognized above all others for their contributions to the community.

Photo by Nikki Boertman

Photo by Nikki Boertman

The gift of giving seems to be contagious within the franchise, and fans appreciate the love.  From Quincy Pondexter’s “Random Acts of Qness” to Tony Allen’s appearances at the Grizz Den and Ashley Furniture HomeStore, the Grizzlies show that they do not just call Memphis “home”, they live it, and are genuinely invested in the city.  So, here’s to you Grizz, to recognizing that this is not a one way street.  It’s not just about entertainment. Your work has brought a third element to what is Hoop City.  People love the Tigers, and homers have their respective high schools, but everyone loves the Grizz, because people like ZBo might as well be St. Nick to those who reside on the 4th Chickasaw Bluff.

-Travis Nauert

Down Goes Marc, Next Man Up (or men)

Marc Injury

The goals of any team are contingent on the one thing over which they have little to no control….injuries (Andrew Bynum’s bowling incident comes to mind). Yes, the ultimate X-factor reared its ugly head on a lazy Saturday afternoon, when an MRI on Marc Gasol’s left knee revealed a Grade II MCL sprain. For now, Gasol is listed as “Out Indefinitely”. This is not an unfamiliar injury for Grizzlies fans. Quincy Pondexter suffered the same mishap last year, and missed time from late December to mid February. We all remember two years ago, when OJ Mayo drove the lane in Chicago and fell into ZBo’s knee, sidelining Zach for 10 weeks. Players have different recovery periods, so it’s probably best to avoid a forecast. Hell, Marc was listed as “Out Indefinitely” last year with an abdominal injury, yet he only missed two games. Hope for the best, but this won’t heal over night.

(Photo: Justin Ford, USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo: Justin Ford, USA TODAY Sports)

The magnitude of this injury cannot be understated. Gasol is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and essentially plays the role of quarterback for the Grizzlies defense. Gasol communicates with the rest of the team from his vantage point down low. His Grizzly like roars from the paint help maintain an organized defensive set and direct players to assist on blown assignments. This is all in the rare event, of course, that Mike Conley or Tony Allen hasn’t stolen the ball already. Puppet Master act aside, Marc’s physical impact is felt when he contests shots at the rim and opens up the offense by facilitating from the foul line area.

Marc was in peak form during the “Cali Swing”, averaging 19.5 points, 9 rebounds, 7.25 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.75 blocks over the four game stretch. He was basically flirting with a triple double every night…because he’s Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies will feel Marc’s absence starting Monday night when the Rockets come to Memphis. Also, early December games against the Clippers, Warriors and Thunder loom, providing playoff level competition. Fortunately for the Grizzlies, all four of those games take place in the Grindhouse. If you missed it or care to see it again, here’s the injury. Basically non contact so it’s not hard to watch other than the impending pain it will inflict on the Grizz:

Next Man Up

It’s not all bad, however. The injury could have been more severe, in which case Marc would require surgery and miss the remainder of the year. Or, this could have happened later in the year, making him unavailable for a playoff run. He will return, with all his Spanish flair, and get back to blocking shots and playing the “classic” Point-Center position. Coach Joerger has said that Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis will fill in, noting it will require multiple players to take on Marc’s work load. Koufos and Davis now have the same opportunity that Marreese Speights had two years ago, when ZBo sprained his MCL.

Since taking over, the new brass in the Memphis front office has made two major trades. The not so much blockbuster of a deal sending Rudy Gay to Toronto did indeed return a player to the Grizzlies, Ed Davis. Davis played sparingly last year, and looked like a deer in headlights when he was on the court. The front office highly coveted Davis for his youth, athleticism, and potential. In the case of Rudy Gay, we know that potential may not always be maximized, but a change of scenery can work wonders for players. The more overlooked move was the trade of Darrell Arthur and a 2nd round draft pick for Kosta Koufos. Koufos started in 81 regular season games with the Denver Nuggets last year, and is more than capable of starting for many teams in the NBA. Side note, Koufos may now be known as 2K, because if ZBo called him that, it has to be cool:

With Gasol out for what could be 2 months, the judgment of these trades will become ever more critical. “2K” and Ed need to take advantage of this opportunity, both by helping the team win games and further defining how they can best contribute to the team. A successful run could spell major minutes for the two players, both now and in the long run to ease Marc back into the lineup. Also, Jon Leuer may see more time in an attempt to save ZBo from burning out too early.

The coming weeks will give the coaching staff (and fans) time to develop a better opinion of not only the trades but the Grizzlies’ chances at returning to the Western Conference Finals….Because that’s what this is really all about…right? Hoop City experienced a different echelon of basketball last year and anything less will be disappointing, because that was a series reserved for big boys. Only grown men allowed.  Z-Bo and TA belong at that table, and will have to lead the Grizzlies through this stretch. Grind on Grizz Nation. Memphis will be fine. ZBo and Tony are still hungry, and they want a seat at that table.

Forum WCF

-Travis Nauert

Week 2

Week 1 didn’t bring the dominance Grizz Nation hoped for, but there’s no reason to get our fur matted just yet.

Joerger’s team is virtually (more like literally) the same team that pushed through to the Western Conference Finals less than 6 months ago. The Grizz were consistently considered the best defense in the league. The city of Memphis is overflowing with Grizzlies fans, and the whole country is beginning to take notice. You know it’s just a matter of time before we make a statement. So keep your heads up Grizz Nation, cause it’s going to be a long winter. While you wait, I’ve done some thinking and have come up with possible blemishes in the first week’s system.

Is Z-Bo getting traded?

It’s hard to imagine Zach Randolph playing anywhere else. But with next season being his fifth and final under contract, Grizz fans are understandably a little uneasy.

The trade rumors are circulating. Z-Bo has the option to opt out of his final contractual season, and at 32, long-term deals are hard to come by in this young and thriving league. It’s worth noting that Zach has a $16.9 million player option that could have the Front Office in Memphis hurting. In a classic turn of events both Randolph and the Grizzlies will have tough decisions to make. For Randolph: to argue for more money or settle for a few less million and retire a Grizzly? For the Grizz Staff: to risk busting the salary cap into luxury tax area or take a short-term risk to keep the heart of the team intact?

Here’s what Randolph had to say about it. Get ready. It’s blush-worthy for any Grizz fan:

(Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images)

(Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images)

“I’d like to be here. I’d like to retire here. You never know. If I’ve got to make some sacrifices to be here, I would. I still can play. I can still help a team out. I want to win a championship. I’ve made all the money in the world. I just want to win. I don’t know yet [about opting in or opting out], but Memphis is my home. If they trade me tomorrow, I’m here. I just bought a new house. My daughters go to school [in Memphis]. That’s my home.”

Don’t lie; you loved reading that. And that’s just what he’s counting on.

Z-Bo has dug a place in Memphis history beyond his dominance in the paint. He’s a philanthropist and a leader within the city. Randolph said he’d make sacrifices to stay in Memphis, suggesting he’s open to a lesser salary in exchange for extended years with the Grizzlies. With Ed Davis being groomed for the starting power forward spot, I’d say a verbal recognition of his lowering stock was a smart move. Let’s not forget this guy was an All-Star last year, and with the exception of the first game against the Spurs, (who have continuously had his number) he has averaged 17.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in the last three games. All while shooting just over 55% from the field, might I add. It’s likely he won’t make the All-Star Game this year, but in the man’s own words, he can still play. And he still deserves to play in Memphis.

I mean how will we get by without classic Z-Bo moments like this… Arguably the greatest shot in our franchise’s history. Doesn’t hurt that it’s over Timmy Duncan.

Where [in the world] is the D??????

Just last season the Grizz were widely considered the most dominant defense in the NBA. Where do we stand now? Memphis is ringing in at number 22 in points allowed. I’ve been hearing a lot of “they’re not playing ‘Grizzlies Ball.’”  While I think this is an absurdly vague excuse for a loss, I think what these fan “critics” mean to say is our defense hasn’t been nearly the force it was last season.

(Photo by Chris Vernon)

(Photo by Chris Vernon)

This is a correctable problem. Last night, Tony Allen and Marc Gasol had reassuring defensive showings against the Boston Celtics. They got back to the Grit N Grind defense that Grizz Nation is familiar with. Remember: we’ve seen four games of 82. Let’s give them time to settle in.

What’s next for Ed Davis?

I mentioned earlier that the young acquisition might be the guy to replace Zach Randolph.

(espn.com)

(espn.com)

While I recognize that were just four games into the regular season, I’m wondering (as I’m sure you are) when we’re going to see sparks. Joeger has Ed Davis splitting back up minutes with Jon Leuer, leaving questions unanswered about our power forward situation. Jon Leuer comes in and spreads the floor, but Davis brings a defensive presence that we need.

For now, Ed Davis is a big question mark. He’ll likely get more PT as the season progresses, so I guess we’ll just wait and see.

Poor starts

The Grizzlies trailed by twenty plus deficits in our first two losses of the season, forcing them to chase their opponents for a majority of the game. And we’ve chased fairly well but not well enough against the Spurs and the Mavs. Poor starts are without a doubt one of the major contributors to Grizz losses, and I think we can blame it on unfamiliar lineups of opponents and our own new offensive and defensive strategies. Pete Pranica and Sean Tuohy listed better first half play a key to last night’s game against Boston. I couldn’t agree more.

And yet… there’s hope! The easy week ahead:

Our boys are back in the Grindhouse this week with three consecutive home games. Last night was a much-needed win against a battered Celtics team. Boston made it harder on the Grizz than anticipated with their absurd shot-making, but a W is a W. Wednesday, we’re facing a tougher, much improved Pelicans team (improved, with the exception of their name) in a match that should show Grizz fans more about the team’s situation. The real test, however, will be against the Warriors, who have been chosen to finish ahead of Memphis in many predictions.

Patience, Grizz Nation…Patience…

(hoopsmack.com)

(hoopsmack.com)

-Casey Black