The NBA fountain of youth is apparently located in Memphis. At the age of 35, Zach Randolph has shown the NBA spectrum that his tank is still full.
In other words — despite being in a new role this season — Z-Bo remains the same Z-Bo that came to Memphis back in 2009. From starter to sixth man, Randolph is as valuable as ever for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Before the regular season — coming into a contract season — the veteran embraced the changes made by new head coach David Fizdale.
Throughout his career, Randolph has always put the team ahead of himself.
“I’m fine with it,” Randolph said prior to the season. “You know how I am. Whatever is best for the team. I feel like I can be a starter, of course, and carry a team like I did last year. But I’m being positive and staying ready. If Coach (Fizdale) wants me to play 10 minutes, I’ll come in and play the hardest 10 minutes.”
The changes made by Fizdale has benefited both parties. The Grizzlies needed the starting unit to play a faster tempo and they also needed more scoring off the bench. Memphis is still showing that they are top-six team in the Western Conference and Randolph is having one of his most efficient seasons in his NBA tenure. The big man is averaging 14.2 points and 8.3 rebounds in just 24 minutes per game. When adjusted to 36 minutes, his averages go up to 21.2 points and 12.7 rebounds (according to Basketball-Reference). Not to mention, he still has a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 19.7 (the league average is 15).
During the month of November, Randolph took a leave of absence due to the passing of mother. He missed seven games before coming back in a win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Dec. 6.
But Z-Bo still wasn’t quite himself. After a win against the Sacramento Kings on New Year’s Eve, the Grizzlies found themselves taking a winning streak into Staples Center. Most importantly, Randolph was getting back to normal. He was starting to smile more on the court. He was banging around for rebounds. There was a little more “oomph” in his patented post-up.
He was back to feeling like Z-Bo.
“I’m starting to feel better,” Randolph said after the game against Sacramento via the Commercial Appeal.
Marc Gasol certainly noticed.
“We love seeing him with that little pep in his step and the eyebrow going,” Gasol said about Randolph via the Commercial Appeal. “I love it. I love it. It makes me just happy to see him like that.”
While he has dealt with a change in his role on the team, Randolph has also made some changes to his game as well. The power forward has shot 56 three-pointers this season, which is already the third-highest season total in his career (80 in 2007-08 and 97 in 2008-09).
Despite having a reduction in minutes, Randolph is still finding ways to score and rebound.
Randolph continues to rebound at a tremendous rate. For the season, he’s grabbing rebounds on the defensive end at a rate of 28.8 percent. To put that into perspective, Randolph is tied with Anthony Davis — who is sixth in the NBA in rebounds per game.
And although his minutes are down, Z-Bo is always ready to play more if the opportunity rises. In 45 games, it’s safe to say he’s got his groove in his new role. When his shot is falling and he’s keeping the opposing team off the offensive glass, Fizdale knows he can lean on his veteran big man.
“I’m finding a rhythm and Coach (David Fizdale) is playing me more minutes,” Randolph said via the Commerical Appeal. “I’ve gotten a better feel (by) playing longer stretches. It’s good to see the ball go in the basket. I’ve accepted my role. I just want to get minutes and help the team win. The fact that I have the support of my teammates and coaches is helping out a lot.”