Before Monday night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph was quoted in the Memphis Commercial-Appeal as saying the Grizzlies front court wasn’t getting the respect they deserved.
Randolph’s comment was fueled by Magic Johnson claiming the New York Knicks had the best front court, comprised of Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
Before and after the Spurs-Grizzlies game, I had a chance to talk to a few of Randolph’s teammates about Randolph’s cry for respect.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s not being respected,” guard Mike Conley said.”I think those teams in bigger markets are always going to get a little more attention.”
“It just comes with being in a small market,” Conley continued. “You just gotta get used to not being out there and exposed as much, but we understand what we have here and we understand how important they are to our team, so I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Conley is right. Randolph, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay can hold their own amongst the league’s best front lines. But whereas Conley knows what he has in his teammates, Randolph may be looking for recognition in all the wrong places.
With Gay out, Randolph and Gay bullied the Spurs bigs on their way to a six-game series victory. Facing those same Spurs on Monday night, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins warned his team about living in the past.
“Don’t get diluted into believing all of the hype from last year,” Hollins said.
Going up against a team starting an aging Tim Duncan and a very consistent DeJuan Blair, with a support core of Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner inside, Randolph was likely salivating while watching pre-game tape.
Unfortunately for Randolph, he finished the game still very hungry and without validating his point. Randolph scored 10 points, four of which came on free throws. He only shot the ball eight times. Combine that with Gasol’s six attempts, and that’s still four less than Gay took.
Against a lesser front line, the Grizzlies passed up the chance at feeding Randolph and Gasol down low where they had the best advantage and opted for the perimeter game. Sure, Gay scored 19 points, but those 19 points don’t make a 13 point loss feel any better.
As much as his coach warned against it, Randolph may still be living in the past. This isn’t the same team that beat the Spurs in six games. Aside from a few minor roster changes, they also have Gay back, an addition Richard Jefferson says changes the Grizzlies on both ends of the court.
Aside from that, while Randolph may want the kind of respect that gets him and his team mentioned on a national broadcast, instead he’s getting the kind of respect that gets him double-teamed.
“Everybody is taking away the post, it started with Oklahoma City,” Hollins said. “Everybody was pounding down on Zach as they’ll put a big guy on him and everybody runs to him as they don’t fear us out on the perimeter.”
Randolph will see that defense tonight against the same Oklahoma City Thunder.
Be careful what you wish for.