MEMPHIS, Tennessee — The Grizzlies have another new coach shaking up the lineup and once again Zach Randolph’s number is being called.
Coach David Fizdale will have the 15-year veteran Zach Randolph anchor the second unit instead of starting alongside center Marc Gasol.
Randolph, who has started 820 of the 984 NBA games he’s played, is on board with the move.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes to help these young guys out and help this Grizzlies team win,” Randolph said.
Fizdale has decided that moving the 6-foot-9 Randolph, who turned 35 in July, to the bench this season will help the Grizzlies start games more up-tempo. JaMychal Green, 26 and entering his third year, will replace Randolph as the starter at power forward.
Fizdale thought about the change over the summer after he was hired in late May to replace Dave J1oerger. With the league moving to a quicker, more athletic pace chasing Golden State, Fizdale also needed an offensive punch on the second unit making the idea of switching Randolph “pretty clear.”
“We’re not going to beat teams and compete with those teams at a high level if we play slow basketball,” Fizdale said. “And, I just think that Marc and Zach together is not a formula for pace.”
The Grizzlies’ lumbering, slowdown, post-driven recipe anchored by Gasol and Randolph on the front line is a rarity in today’s NBA. Last season, Memphis averaged 99.1 points — one of seven teams scoring less than 100 points a game and the only playoff team under the century mark. The rest of the league averaged 102.7 points, led by Golden State’s 115.
Randolph, who has known Fizdale since the forward was 19, is saying all the right things about the change:
— He wants to help the Grizzlies win
— He’s a team-first player.
— He will play hard in whatever role he is given.
— And he is pleased there is a clear direction from the start, not a midseason change.
“It’s going to be better this year because I know how to prepare myself and know what to expect. I can get prepared,” Randolph said.
This isn’t the first time a Memphis coach thought Randolph coming off the bench might better serve the team. Former coaches Lionel Hollins and Joerger both experimented with the idea with mixed results.
“I was just very direct with Z Bo. I was very respectful,” Fizdale said. “I laid out the plan on why and how he could still be extremely effective and help us win a title. I also put the goal in front of him that we’re going to go after the Sixth Man of the Year together.”
Fizdale also hopes to solve another problem by adding offensive punch to the reserves from a forward averaging 17 points and 9.4 rebounds per game over his career. Randolph’s banging post play against younger players coupled with his ability to position himself for rebounds should help provide a more balanced rotation for the Grizzlies.
The new coach is frank about the move, both in discussing the change publicly and in recounting his conversation with Randolph who is going into the final season of his contract.
“I said: ‘Z, I don’t know if people are going to pay you to be a starter from here on out,'” Fizdale said. “That’s not a knock on him. Father Time catches up to everyone a little bit. I said: ‘Let’s show people that you’re willing and able to come off the bench and be very effective.'”
And, for now, Randolph seems willing to accept the challenge.
“He said he just wanted to try something, and hopefully, it’ll work.” Randolph said. “I’m just going to go out and play my game.”