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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Atlanta Hawks: Preseason Game Two Preview

Zach Randolph's new role, coming off the bench, will be closely monitored in Memphis tonight.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Atlanta Hawks

WHEN: 7:00 PM CT

WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: TV Information Not Available - 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

It’s a well known fact that some coaches use the preseason to test new schemes and player combinations. That being said, Zach Randolph started off the bench in the first game of the preseason and that sparked a series of speculations about his role for the upcoming season.

Those speculations turned out to be right. The new Grizzlies coach, David Fizdale, claimed that Randolph will not start for Memphis but instead he will be a big part of the second unit.

“He’s been incredible about the whole situation. He’s embracing that role. Like I told him, ‘Most likely no one is going to pay you to be a starter from here on out. Let’s audition you for what you can be for the rest of your career.’ And it really clicked with him. And we’re going to go after Sixth Man of the Year. I want to highlight the hell out of him in that second unit. I want him to be a leader in that second unit.”

The Memphis Grizzlies host the Atlanta Hawks tonight whilst all eyes will focus on number 50. Randolph has been a starter for pretty much all his career as a Grizzly, but his age and decline in numbers are starting to show.

Randolph has always shown a strong commitment to the team and the organization when benched. He has repeatedly expressed his wishes to retire in a Memphis Grizzlies uniform, and accepted the new situation regarding his role in similar fashion.

Randolph started off the bench 15 times last season, averaged 14.1 points. Those games happened during December and early January last season when former coach Dave Joerger shuffled the lineup looking to bounce back after a mediocre start. Randolph had some ups and downs during that stint and benefitted from playing against usually less experienced second units.

Dave Joerger used Jeff Green as a stretch four but the experiment was not convincing. JaMychal Green, a power forward who’s comfortable playing open in offense, will be in the starting lineup. Once Chandler Parsons is back from injury, Fizdale will have to decide on whether to play him as a small or power forward.

Tony Allen's role is also a question mark. The decision to start him or not will significantly shape the look of the new Grizzlies and may put an end to the Grit and Grind era. Allen did not play in the first preseason game.

It looks like Fizdale's idea is to increase the pace and spread the floor. His remarks on encouraging Marc Gasol to shoot more threes are a sign of the latter. He shot two from long range in 13 minutes against the Orlando Magic last Monday.

Speaking of Gasol, this preseason is specially important for him and Mike Conley after their injuries. Getting those two players acclimated to the game pace and intensity is a must before the start of the season.

Tonight's game will also be a good opportunity to see the sharpshooters James Ennis and Troy Daniels adjusting to their new team. Both started in the first game, but only Ennis had decent numbers (3-3 from the floor for 8 points). Daniels had neither many minutes nor the best performance.

The rookies will likely continue to get consistent playing time which is important given their age and lack of experience. In this respect, Wade Baldwin IV seems to be gaining ground in the battle with Andrew Harrison for the backup point guard position.

Other players trying to make a roster spot, DJ Stephens, Wayne Selden, Troy Williams, and Tony Wroten, will surely have something to fight for if they are given any minutes on the floor.

A new man in the middle

After 9 years with Al Horford in the center position, the Boston Celtics acquired the Dominican player in free agency. The Hawks filled in the gap with native Atlantan Dwight Howard, who hasn’t been able to live up to the hype on his last two teams (Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets). Howard will wear the Hawks jersey for the first time tonight.

The point guard Jeff Teague also completed his departure from the Atlanta Hawks to the Indiana Pacers. Former backup point guard, Dennis Schroeder, will replace him in the starting lineup while journeyman Jarrett Jack signed up to be the point guard of the second unit.

Other than that, the Hawks have maintained most players already in the roster in the last couple of years. Millsap, Korver, and Bazemore will continue to carry the load of this team which wants to compete again for the Eastern Conference crown.

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