Kennedy: Zach Randolph Likely On the Move?
With the trade deadline just around the corner, many veterans have already been mentioned in trade rumors. Players around the league have heard their name surface and many teams have begun working the phones to see which players are actually available.
While many players are rumored to be on the move, few are more likely to be dealt than Zach Randolph. The general consensus around the league is that Randolph is one of the most realistic options for teams looking to make a splashy move before the deadline. The power forward is both attractive and attainable for a number of reasons.
This season, many teams are opting to hold onto their ending deals until they know the specifics of the new collective bargaining agreement. This makes Randolph’s $17,333,333 expiring contract intriguing to many teams that would love to add a contributor without adding to their payroll beyond this season.
Randolph is also having one of the best years of his career. He’s one of only four players that are averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds – alongside Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, and Kevin Love. His points, rebounds, and field goal percentage have increased significantly while committing his lowest number of turnovers and fouls since becoming a starter. Randolph has been named the Western Conference Player of the Week twice in the past month and his dominance hasn’t gone unnoticed.
"Executives are drooling over him because he’s a double-double machine," said one league source. "Teams will always be interested in a player like that. His stats speak for themselves."
While some teammates have privately criticized Randolph’s lack of defensive intensity and shoot first attitude, teams believe that the forward’s pros outweigh his cons and view him as a significant contributor. The New Jersey Nets, Golden State Warriors, and Houston Rockets are among the teams that have been linked to Randolph at some point this season.
With Memphis assembling a young nucleus of Rudy Gay, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, the twenty-nine year old doesn’t seem to fit into their long term plans. The Grizzlies are preparing for Gasol’s restricted free agency and have put Randolph’s contract situation on the backburner, which is why many feel he could be had for the right price. Memphis isn’t sure that they’ll be able to afford or attract Randolph this summer so dealing him may be the team’s best option.
Randolph’s preference is to join a team that’s willing to offer him an extension on his current deal, but that’s unlikely at his salary. If he becomes a free agent next summer, he understands that he’ll make much less because of the new collective bargaining agreement. However, the next best and most realistic option is for Randolph to join a winning team where he can thrive and prove his worth on a bigger stage.
The Grizzlies will have some decisions to make over the next few weeks. Because keeping Randolph isn’t one of the team’s top priorities, there is a belief that he will be moved. While no trade is imminent at this point, expect a lot of the active teams to zero in on Randolph in the coming weeks.
Magic Aren’t Ready to Contend: It’s very difficult for a contending team to overhaul their roster midseason without missing a beat. Players must adjust to a new system and atmosphere on the fly and building chemistry with teammates and coaches takes time.
This season, the Orlando Magic has proven this to be true. Ever since Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas and Earl Clark joined the team in December, the team has struggled to find their identity and produce consistently. They have beaten elite teams such as the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs, but have lost to teams outside of the playoff picture like the Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies.
The distribution of minutes is still being worked out, which was evident after Arenas played the entire fourth quarter on Monday night, and the group is still meshing. But the biggest concern in Orlando has been the team’s defense. Orlando has struggled so much with individual defensive assignments that Van Gundy had to make the switch to a zone at one point against the Grizzlies.
The defensive lapses have the Magic worried that they’ll fall short of their goal to win a championship.
"Right now, we’re not ready to contend because we don’t defend hard enough for long enough," Van Gundy told reporters. "We’re going to see if over the next ten and a half weeks if it will change. If it does then we have a chance to be as good as anybody and if it doesn’t then we don’t."
But Van Gundy isn’t the only one worried about the Magic. After the team’s loss to Detroit last week, Dwight Howard was irritated and made it clear that the team needs to eliminate their bad habits.
"Guys got to guard on the perimeter, got to do a better job. It just can’t be one dribble to the basket," Howard said last week. "Guys just got to want to play. That’s it. Either we get it together or we’re just going to be a playoff team that doesn’t win a championship."
On Monday night, Howard reiterated his concerns with where the team stands, especially on the defensive end.
"The only way it’s going to change for us is if we decide that we’re going to do it defensively," Howard said. "If we don’t do it, we’ll win a game here and there and remain one of the top five teams in the East, but that’s not the goal."
The Magic are still going through an adjustment period, but they’ll have to make improvements on the fly to get back on the right track. Orlando has dropped three of their last six games, but remain the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed. But at the end of the day, that’s not the goal.
News and Notes: Here are some items from this week’s news and notes bin.
• During the Orlando Summer League, Lance Stephenson was one of the most impressive rookies to take the floor each day. Not only was he was of the best scorers, averaging 14.8 points per game, he also led the entire league in field goal percentage shooting a ridiculous .733. Stephenson’s performance turned heads around the league and the Pacers brass gushed about him. But under former head coach Jim O’Brien, Stephenson failed to log a single minute of regular season action. With Frank Vogel taking over as interim head coach and Larry Bird giving input on who plays, sources close to the situation expect Stephenson’s minutes to increase gradually throughout the rest of the season.
• In October, LeBron James didn’t show up to an event dubbed "Dawn of a Dynasty" that he was contracted to host at a Clearwater club called The Venue. Missing the party wasn’t the only thing that went wrong during his trip to Tampa. The exhibition game between the Miami HEAT and Orlando Magic was cancelled when the court’s surface was deemed unsafe. But now, James is returning to Orlando and is contracted to hold another party on Wednesday night. The event has been dubbed "My Way" and will be held at Tavern on the Lake in Orlando. Will he show up this time?
• On Monday, the Los Angeles Clippers set the club record for most consecutive home wins since moving to L.A. in 1984. The Clippers have won nine games in a row at STAPLES Center and are 16-13 at home this season. The franchise record for most home wins in a row is eleven, which was set by the San Diego Clippers in 1979. The Clippers’ next home game is Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls.