Putting aside for a moment whether or not Memphis lavishing a 4-year, $66 million contract extension upon Zach Randolph was a good idea (as Tom Ziller reminds us, the Grizzlies now have more than $200 million committed to three players, Randolph, Mike Conley and Rudy Gay, who might not be good enough to Memphis out of the first round), Randolph — less than a year removed from being called a drug kingpin by Indiana police – has fashioned a surprising career revival since leaving New York . “Randolph is the face of the Memphis Grizzlies…he is also the soul, the heart and the reason they were spending Monday morning basking in their 1-0 lead over the San Antonio Spurs,” insists the Memphis Commercial-Appeal’s Geoff Calkins, who somehow manages not to compare Z-Bo to Cal Ripken Jr..
You’ve got Babe Ruth in New York. You’ve got Stan Musial in St. Louis. Somehow, it wouldn’t have worked the other way around.
Mike Ditka winds up in Chicago. Franco Harris lands in Pittsburgh. Magic Johnson goes to Los Angeles. Joe Namath plays in New York.
And now Randolph stays in Memphis. For what should be the best four years of his career.
“He’s our foundation,” said Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, but Randolph is really more than that.
He’s the perfect player for this city. He’s the hard-working embodiment of Memphis at its best. He’s tough, he’s generous and he takes a beating in the national press.
Sound like any underdog city you know?
So pay no attention to the experts — and yes, there are a few — who would tell that the Grizzlies overpaid to keep Randolph around. The guy is the franchise. Without him, the Grizzlies would be back to winning 20-plus games a year.