NBA: Memphis Grizzlies, a force in the Western Conference
One of the hottest teams in the NBA after two weeks of action is the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis has started the season 6-1 after winning their sixth consecutive game on Wednesday night. The Grizzlies in the past five days have beaten both of the NBA finalists in last season’s NBA championship series. On Sunday, they defeated the Miami Heat and then on Wednesday outlasted the Oklahoma City Thunder.
One big reason for the team’s best start in franchise history is Zach Randolph. The power forward on Wednesday night recorded his seventh consecutive double/double as he had 20 points and 11 boards against the Thunder. He currently leads the NBA in rebounding and is trying to put last season’s disappointments out of his mind. The power forward for the Grizzlies said that thinking about what happened last season is just too painful.
Last January only a week after the start of the season shortened by the lockout, Randolph tore his MCL. That injury kept him on the sideline for the first two months of the season. Even when he returned to play, he was not comfortable with the leg. His coach, Lionel Hollins said he was just a shell of the player he was before the injury. Hollins said Randolph was never 100% last season.
During the 2010-2011 season, Randolph was the Grizzlies catalyst. The team made the playoffs and ended up knocking out the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. They also took the Thunder to seven games during the semifinals in the Western Conference.
Last season however when Randolph came back from two months on the sideline he became a disruption for his teammates. He started a few games before coach Hollins put him on the bench. He did not start again until the Grizzlies met the Los Angeles Clippers in the playoffs and were eliminated.
Randolph said last season was the most difficult one he has had over his career. He said he was out of shape, overweight and did not have the bounce he was used to. He also worried about his knee and knew it was not 100%. However, he said being the warrior he is, he could not complain.
After the season ended, he relaxed for two months and then worked hard leading up to the start of the season. He worked with a strength and conditioning coach and worked right up to the start of training camp.
His offseason workout that was unconventional seemed to work as he is averaging over 16 points per game and 14.5 rebounds, which leads the NBA. In the first seven games of the season, Randolph has had at least 11 rebounds in each game to go along with his double digit scoring in each game. What also helped him is a complete training camp with his teammates, which gave him the chance to get the chemistry back with the starting five. He is starting to become a force down low and he and Marc Gasol, the team’s center form one of the most intimidating frontcourts in the NBA.
With Randolph playing well, Rudy Gay, the team’s small forward and leading scorer, and Mike Conley chipping in, the team has become a formidable foe for every team in the league. The players feel they are better this season than last season. Gay is healthy again this season and with Randolph back to full strength the Grizzlies look to go deep into the playoffs.
However, they still have 75 regular season games to go before that happens!