With news coming down today that Zach Randolph could be missing at least two months, it looks like some pretty rough sailing ahead for our Memphis Grizzlies. While a lot of fans may be tempted to abandon ship, all is not quite lost. Our Captain may be down, but we still have a really solid first mate in Rudy Gay, and a great anchor in Marc Gasol, not to mention a pretty solid navigator in Mike Conley. (These nautical analogies doing anything for anybody?) It's not going to be easy without the big fella', but the Grizzlies can do more than just tread water in his absence. We'll need certain guys to step up and play above their heads, and we'll need to take advantage of winnable games. If we can do that, we will have a winning record by the time ZBo returns.
5 Players Who Need to Step Up
5. The Forwards- I realize this is more than just one player, but we're going to need more than one player to replace Randolph. Dante Cunningham, Quincy Pondexter,
and Darrell Arthur, and Sam Young will need to be huge. Cunningham is going to need to consistently hit that mid-range jumper and provide better perimeter defense. Pondexter is going to need to hold dominate 4's like Blake Griffin and Kevin Love as close to in check as possible. Sam Young, who can also play the 2, is going to need to provide punch off the bench. Its unrealistic to expect him to get 20 points in 28 minutes every game, but 15 a night would be huge from him.
4. Mike Conley- Part of the reason we are able to cover up our 3 point shooting weakness is because we were constantly outscoring guys in the paint. With Randolph gone, that's no longer going to be a strength. Conley is going to need to hit big 3's for us as well as run the offense. Anything less than 3 a night, and we're probably still going to get murdered from beyond the arch.
3. Ovinton J'Anthony Mayo- Time to see what this juice is made of. Between he and Sam Young, we're going have to have someone averaging 15-17 points off the bench every night. OJ is a better shooter than Sam, and probably a better scorer as well. He's wanted to be the man from day one, time to prove he has what it takes.
2. Marc Gasol- If we don't take a huge step back in the points in the paint category, its because The Spaniard is grabbing some of the points ZBo is leaving out there. Gasol has the ability to be the best center in the game. 18/10 is going to be a necessity from him.
1. Rudy Gay- If ever there were a time for Rudy to prove we were right to not trade him, this would be the time to do it. He is going to need to be our leader. Not just as far as scoring goes, but in everything. He'll need to play better defense, hustle harder, and put the team on his back. We don't have time for this child's play, Rudy. Time to be the man.
The schedule isn't exactly brutal, but its not easy by any means. We start off tonight with a three game road trip to the T'Wolves, Jazz, and Lakers. Minny is a tough out, but can be beaten, Utah is laughable, and LA is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde. When they are on, they are unstoppable, but when they're off, look out for flying elbows. We need to win 2/3 here. 2-1
Up next is a pretty miserable home-stand. OKC, New York, NOLA, and Chicago all come a calling. This we be tough with Randolph in the line up. Without him? I can honestly see us going 0-4. But I'm gonna say we play with a lot of pride in front of the home crowd and can at the very least over come the Hornets, if not the Knicks as well. 1-3
We've got a bit of a breather the next three games. We're on the road to New Orleans, Detroit and then at home to Sacramento again. I understand all of these are NBA teams with NBA players, but anything short of 2 wins is disappointing. I'd love a three game winning streak, but two wins is the safer bet. 2-1
A four game trip out West is up next. We visit Golden State, Portland, Lob City, and Phoenix. I'm very high on Portland, and that's probably a definite loss. We should be able to win against Golden State, and I'm almost certain we'll demolish the Suns. 2-2
I'm pretty sure I'll set a record for saying "piss" over the next five games. We're visited by Denver and San Antonio, and take our talents to Atlanta, OKC, and Boston. Surely we can get one win here, right? Am I right?? 1-4
Five straight games at the Grindhouse might cheer us all up. We face the Spurs again, but then have Minny, Indiana, Utah, and Houston. Screw being conservative, I'm thinking we pick up four wins in this stretch. We'll need to. 4-1
The next six games are tricky. We're in New Jersey, home to Denver and Golden State, at Houston, and then Home to Dallas and Philly. These are all winnable games that we could easily end up losing. I'd like to think we can find four wins in there somewhere though. 4-2
That would put us at 16-14 through that stretch and 18-17 on the season overall entering March, where we have a pretty soft schedule even if Zach can't make it back just yet. That's not the sexiest record, nor is it what we all expected entering the season, but considering we just lost 20 points and 10 rebounds a game, its not bad all. If we enter March with that record, I'll feel really good about our chances to make a run with a healthy Randolph for the final two months of the season.