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Grizzlies Ready for Life Without Randolph
Posted By Stephen Litel On January 6, 2012 @ 12:00 pm In All,NBA | No Comments
The Memphis Grizzlies took a hit on Wednesday when they announced Zach Randolph would miss 6-8 weeks with a slight tear to his MCL. However, as expected of professionals, the team is ready to move on and continue to find ways to win basketball games.
“As soon as we get news like that, the natural reaction is to lower your head and think everything’s over with, but I think our team is really resilient,” Mike Conley told HOOPSWORLD. “We had to do it with Rudy (Gay) last year. Now we have to do it without Zach for a little while, so it’s just another test for us, another opportunity for guys to step up and show what we have. We’re putting Memphis back on the map and show that we can play regardless of missing our All-Star players.”
Losing a player of Randolph’s caliber is never something you want, yet the Grizzlies believe they are ready for the challenge. One of the first ways to go about embracing the obstacle placed in front of them is re-committing to the young season and to each other as a team, truly knowing in the privacy of their locker room they can continue to win games.
“We definitely do miss Zach because he’s a terrific player,” OJ Mayo told HOOPSWORLD. “It brings a different focus to the locker room every game we approach and we feel like we have to be more focused. Our big fella isn’t here and that means we have to execute better on the offensive end and on defense we have to play together. We definitely miss him out there, but it definitely is bringing us closer and banding us together. It’s us against the world and maybe people are counting us out, but we have to go out there and play every night.”
When the news came down about Randolph, many outside of the team began to write the Memphis Grizzlies off for the 2011-12 shortened season. Because they have re-committed to each other and to their team, the players themselves believe this to be an extreme over-reaction.
“We’re still a good team and we have a lot of good things going on with this team,” Rudy Gay told HOOPSWORLD. “I mean, we play good together and Zach is a big part of the team, but we move on just like last year when I had surgery. They moved on and we have to do the same. We have always led by committee anyway, so everybody does their job and we’ve been good at that.”
The Grizzlies have also done some soul-searching as individual players. While working on the individual game plans for the opponents they face, the players are re-evaluating what they do for the team and how they can contribute more now when they have a hole in their attack.
“I’m always going to try to do what’s best for the team, whether it’s shooting, passing, rebounding the ball or whatever we have to do,” Marc Gasol told HOOPSWORLD. “I don’t think of myself better than anybody. Everybody is going to have to do something a little bit different to win since he’s not here. We’ll just do what we have to do because we all understand and we know what it is to lose a guy like Zach, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We have to man up, play and try to win. We might have to take more shots here and there and help to rebound, but everybody has to do their job.”
“I have to be more efficient and I definitely have to be more aggressive,” adds Mayo. “We’re missing Z-Bo’s points and rebounding, so I have to go rebound as a guard. I need to score more, be a leader, pass and be more aggressive on the offensive end.”
This is a close-knit team, who is coming off a fine playoff performance last year. While they may have a core that has been together for a few years now and believe they lead by committee, they also understand there are expectations of a few to carry more of the load. They will look to their leaders to continue to develop during this time of adversity and opportunity.
“I feel like I lead by example,” said Gay. “I think guys are kind of drawn towards me because of the work that I put in, but obviously with that, you have to show yourself every night. I’m ready for that and this is exactly what you ask for.”
Now, they’ve added a new teammate in Marreese Speights and they are excited with the addition. Obviously, with Randolph’s injury, adding a player in the post was a necessity.
“From what I know from playing against him, he’s a big body, he’s pretty good around the rim, he’s a pretty good pick-and-pop shooter and I think he fits this offense well,” said Conley. “He fits kind of like how Darrell Arthur does with a similar game, energy and can really hit that 10-15 foot jumpshot consistently. That will really help us out a lot.”
They are focused on the here and now, ready to help Speights understand their team, but also excited for how his addition can help, especially after Randolph’s return. The move would have occurred even if Randolph was healthy.
“It will give us some depth there in our four and five spot and allow Zach to get some rest,” said Conley. “We won’t lose much with guys coming in the game off the bench, so that definitely will make us much deeper.”
There’s a lot going on with the Memphis Grizzlies right now in a shortened-season with high expectations. Losing one of their main players for a while hurts, but they have absorbed the blow and ready to turn heads with their play without him.
“We’ve been here before,” said Mayo. “We just have to focus and take every game like it’s our last game.”
In this shortened-season, every ‘last game’ is going to come fast and furious for the Memphis Grizzlies, but they feel that if any team can handle it, they can.
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