Tag Archives: Memphis Grizzlies

Playbook Parable: Mike Conley’s Missed Buzzer-Beater

She couldn’t have meant that, could she?

“Why don’t you come upstairs?” She said with a wink and a telling smile. At least, I think it was a telling smile, but I’m awful at reading these things and why the hell am I talking to myself when I could be upstairs with her?

But wait. What if I really am wrong? No, there’s no way. She invited me to her party at her house. She said she couldn’t wait to see me. All night, she ignored every one else but me, laughing at my stupid jokes, stealing glances my way in the rare moments we were apart. And now, this. I’m totally in.

OK, come on, body, move. This is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for all year. That’s it, one foot in front of the other, left right, left, right, good. Push through the crowd, avoid the beer pong table, spin around the couple making out, watch out for the TV, oh look! The very stairs in question. Just ten short steps, that’s all. Then a quick turn of the corner, a few feet more, and there’s her room. Only, I’m stuck.

No, no, don’t freeze up, not now. Don’t hesitate. He who hesitates is lost. Who said that? Was it Benjamin Franklin? No, he said early bird gets the worm. Confucius, then. But that has nothing to do with filial piety so that can’t be right and oh my god what the fuck is wrong with me just MOVE!

Stairs climbed. Corner turned. Distance traversed. I’m pretty sure my heart’s about to explode and my shirt is soaked in sweat and my mouth is drier than the Sahara but so what I’m here.

Her door’s shut. Her lights are off. Two doors down, her friend comes out of the bathroom, yawning.

“She just went to sleep.”

Addison, that’s who said it. Joseph fucking Addison.

 

 

This series is inspired by Said The Gramophone

San Antonio’s Masterpiece

The beauty of San Antonio’s offense is its effortless appearance, as if the players aren’t so much forcing the ball to another player but rather guiding it along to its next natural stop until it reaches its final destination, the hoop. Screens set, cuts executed, corners filled, the lane penetrated, all seemingly simultaneously, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Against Golden State, something just seemed…off about the San Antonio Spurs. Their rotations weren’t as crisp, Tony Parker wasn’t quite himself, Manu Ginobili looked as if Father Time had finally gained the upper hand. For the first time since last year’s conference finals against Oklahoma City, the Spurs looked as if they were actually working for their shots.  The joy that San Antonio played with, if not exuded, disappeared, smothered by Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green’s defense.

In four games against the Lakers, the Spurs averaged an offensive rating of 111, up nearly five points from their regular season average of 105.9. Against the Warriors, that number dipped 104.4. More telling in terms of their struggles to move the ball against the Warriors in typical Spursian fashion was their assist ratio. Per NBA.com, The Spurs averaged a league-leading 19.2 assists per 100 possessions in the regular season, but just 17.1 against the Warriors, which in the regular season would have tied Milwaukee and Portland for 15th overall.

Yesterday marked the return of the Spurs we’d grown so used to during the regular season. They sank fourteen three-pointers, but it felt like they connected on every one of their 29 attempts. Though they only scored 10 fast break points, they still moved quicker in both the half court and transition, taking advantage of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph’s lack of speed, something they weren’t able to do against the more athletic likes of Carl Landry, Harrison Barnes and the aforementioned Green and Bogut. San Antonio’s 121.9 points per 100 possessions in game 1 was their third-highest in the playoffs.

Just as their scoring had returned to form, so too had their passing. The assist may not be a perfect measure of passing, especially in the context of an entire team, but San Antonio’s 70% assist percentage is at least somewhat illustrative of how well they moved the ball against the Grizzlies. Once again, the ball zipped and flowed, taking advantage of Memphis’ over-helping and flying to Danny Green or Kawhi Leonard or Matt Bonner. The uncommon effort witnessed in the second round had been replaced by the usual joyful precision.

Yes, this was just one game. The Grizzlies, just as they’ve done in the previous two rounds, will adjust and present a greater challenge in game two. Shooters likely won’t be as open and Zach Randolph certainly won’t again be held to just two points. Nevertheless, game one at the very least served as a reminder of how beautiful a masterpiece San Antonio can create on their hardwood canvas.

Statistical support for this story provided by NBA.com/stats

Lion Face/Lemon Face 5/16/13: Don’t Forget Your Towel

Grit! Grind! Dunks! Classic Dwyane Wade! LeBron flopping! Towels! Let’s take a look at the best and worst from last night.

 

Lion Face: Memphis Grizzlies

It wasn’t easy, and it was rarely pretty, but the Grizzlies move on to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.  Zach Randolph (28 points, 14 rebounds) and Mike Conley (13 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds) were terrific in the series-clincher, attacking the Thunder at perhaps their two weakest positions. Congratulations, Memphis.

Lemon Face: Tony Allen

Courtesy of SBNation

Courtesy of SBNation

Tony, didn’t you learn anything from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy? Never forget your towel! Seriously, this is what sparked Oklahoma City’s insane near-comeback. (And yes, I realize it was a shirt, but the title of this post and the Hitchhiker reference don’t exactly work with a shirt, so back off).

Lion Face: Tayshaun Prince

Raise your hand if you thought Prince still had this kind of dunk in him. Put your hand down, liar.

Lemon Face: Kendrick Perkins

One look at Perkins’ numbers in the semifinals forces the face to scrunch and sour in such an extreme manner that it resembles, well, Kendrick Perkins. The sultan of scowl shot 17.6% for the entire series, notching a PER of -.72. What’s that? You want visuals? Trust me, you don’t. No, seriously, you don’t. Fine, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Courtesy of NBA.com/Stats

Courtesy of NBA.com/Stats

 

Have you finished wiping up the blood that seeped from every orifice? Good. Maybe next time you’ll listen to me.

Lion Face: Dwyane Wade

Wade, knee troubles and all, put on a vintage Wade performance in the fourth quarter, shooting a perfect 3-of-3, including two eurostep-powered floaters that registered high on the nostalgia meter.

 

Lion Face: Chicago Bulls

Hats off to this team. Battling through injuries, fatigue and overblown, undeserved criticism, they beat the Nets in seven games, gave the Heat a hell of a fight, and gave us a few Nate Robinson moments we’re unlikely to forget any time soon.

 

Lemon Face: LeBron James

All NBA players flop. The one who say they don’t flop? Guess what, they flop. So while LeBron James’ flop shouldn’t really be anything noteworthy, I’m still putting it here because it was pretty ridiculous.

Courtesy of SBNation

Courtesy of SBNation

 

Profile Paroxysm: The Education of Reggie Jackson

The Thunder’s selection of Reggie Jackson in the 2011 NBA draft was surprising, to say the least. Clearly, the Thunder didn’t bring in Jackson to supplant Russell Westbrook, but with super-sub Eric Maynor firmly entrenched as the team’s back-up point guard, it was hard to see where Jackson figured into the Thunder’s plans.

Sam Presti, in his press conference on the night of the draft, said of Jackson: “He’s a guy that is a willing learner. He’s a guy with great athletic ability. He’s a guy that can shoot the ball. And he’s a guy that really understands that he has room to grow and wants to improve. And that’s what his focus is.”

That learning process sped up in Jackson’s rookie season after Maynor tore his ACL just nine games into the lockout-shortened season. Jackson, however, failed to make much of an impact, averaging just 3.1 points per game while shooting thirty-two percent from the field and twenty-one percent from beyond the arc. The Thunder signed Derek Fisher, and Jackson’s minutes quickly diminished.

In this, his second season, Jackson’s improved play, coupled with Maynor’s slower-than-expected recovery from his ACL tear, inspired enough confidence in the Thunder to trade Maynor to the Portland Trail Blazers, leaving Jackson as the team’s clear-cut back-up point guard.  The increase in minutes—17.8 minutes per game after the Maynor trade, versus 11.8 prior—and responsibilities granted Jackson a greater opportunity to show his talents. An even greater, though unfortunate, opportunity arose just a few weeks ago, when the Thunder lost Westbrook for the remainder of the playoffs due to a meniscus tear. Suddenly, unexpectedly, Jackson was thrust into a starting role for a team many picked to represent the Western conference in the NBA Finals.

Injuries, be it to a role player or a star, are both unfortunate and inevitable parts of the game. And when one player goes down, the next in line has to be ready to step up and fill their predecessor’s role.  Keyon Dooling, a 13-year NBA veteran, has seen more than his fair share of these “Next Man Up” situations, and knows the value of this always-ready mentality. “Being ready and mentally focused, and having that confidence in yourself knowing that you can play. It’s a catch 22, getting to play behind somebody as great as (Westbrook), because you don’t get to play that much, but you get to learn a lot. He’s shown in a short amount of time that he’s a good player.”

Jackson is no Westbrook, but Dooling does see parallels in their playing styles. “Their games are similar: [they’re both] athletic, good with the ball, have size and can pull up.”

Nick Collison, who has been with both Westbrook and Jackson since their respective rookie seasons, also notices the similarities between the two. “They’re both guys that like to attack off the dribble, and both can make jump shots.”

In fact, taking and making more shots is one of the biggest reasons Jackson’s filled in so admirably for Westbrook.

Per NBA.com, Jackson is attempting nearly three more three-pointers in the playoffs (4.1) than he did the regular season (1.5), an uptick Jackson attributes to sharing more time on the court with Kevin Durant. “Playing with KD more, everybody’s collapsing, so I’m getting better looks,” says Jackson, who knows that knocking down those shots is key to taking pressure off Durant. “I have to continue to believe in myself and work on it.”

Collison is impressed with Jackson’s production as a starter, and attributes the second-year guard’s improvement to an increased comfort level within the team. “Early in their careers, it’s tough for all players that get limited minutes, especially point guards, to know exactly what to do. But he (Jackson) is a lot more comfortable. When he has chances to attack, he’s doing it. He’s pulling up or making the pass when it’s not there.”

The circumstances may not be ideal, but Jackson now has the opportunity to put those lessons learned observing Westbrook to use at time when the Thunder needs him the most. Says Collison: “It’s huge to lose Russell, but this has been huge for Reggie to be able to get time and experience. He’s really improved and we’re counting on him.”

Statistical support for this story provided by NBA.com

Lion Face/Lemon Face 5/1/13: LET’S GET PHYSICAL, PHYSICAL

Lion Face

Denver Nuggets vs Golden State Warriors

All of it. Just all of it. This series has been tremendously entertaining, from Steph Curry going supernova, Andrew Bogut’s revival, #PlayoffPierre, Roaracle, Ty Lawson being spectacular, and so much more. The first round of this year’s playoffs hasn’t had much excitement or drama, but this series has been the exceptional exception.

Lemon Face

Vinny Del Negro’s suit game

Ew

Look, Vinny, just because we make fun of you for looking like you belong on the set of Miami Vice doesn’t mean you have to dress like it. I mean, look at those shoulders. Yeesh.

Lion Face

Chris Paul vs Marc Gasol


nbaSLAPwacky

Not so much for the play, but for this GIF. I could watch it all day. Chris Paul looks like the little brother who lost his toy to his big brother, Marc. “You butthead! Give it back give it back giveitback giveitback giveitback! I HATE YOU!”

(GIF courtesy of SBNation)

Lemon Face

Andrew Bynum gets down in Madrid

I can’t even begin to comprehend how frustrating this video of Bynum, fresh off a season in which he didn’t play a single game due to chronic knee issues, is to Sixers fans. So I asked my good friend Tom Sunnergren of Hoop76 to help me out. Take it away, Tom!

Andrew Bynum, apparently, has been struck with a variety of knee injury that allows him to participate in every conceivable athletic activity but basketball. This is remarkable. While a terrible blow for his basketball career (and the emotional balance of people who care about the Philadelphia 76ers), Bynum’s malfunction could mark a seminal moment in sports science—the key that unlocks the previously unknown and unknowable, flinging open whole new vistas of knowledge and inquiry. In studying what’s absent in Bynum, we might learn, finally, what really makes a good basketball player.

What is it that separates Jordan from the rest? Or allows LeBron to be LeBron? By considering Andrew Bynum’s knees—and learning what essential thing they, and he, are missing—we might finally understand what separates the greatest players in the NBA from petulant children with stupid haircuts who can’t play a goddamned minute of NBA basketball for a franchise that mortgaged its present and future to get them but can fucking flamenco dance what the fuck. In this way, Andrew Bynum isn’t just a washout, a buffoon, a deadbeat, or a botched abortion of an offseason acquisition, but something more. A hero, maybe. Fuck.

(Video via Facebook)

Lemon Face

Blake Griffin’s ankle

Say what you will about Blake Griffin. Say he’s a flopper, a whiner, a bad defensive player, whatever. Blake Griffin, at full strength, is still damn fun to watch, and his ankle injury that took him out of last night’s action, and potentially for game 6, is a bummer.

15-Footer, 4/30/13: HAIKUS FOR TUES(day)

Golden State Warriors vs Denver Nuggets 8 PM TNT

Steph Curry Stephen

Curry Steph Curry Stephen

Curry Steph Curry

 

He is en fuego

Karl sticks Miller

On him. Big mistake

 

Denver returns home

Down three games to one. Will Dubs

Deliver knockout?

 

Memphis Grizzlies vs Los Angeles Clippers 10:30 PM TNT

 

Marc Gasol getting

More aggressive on offense

Is good for Memphis

 

CP3 being

The Point God is good for Clips

And for us at home

 

What’s not good for us?

Blake Griffin’s incessant need to dribble between the legs then pull up for a mid-range jumper that will inevitably clang off the rim. YOU’RE SHOOTING 33% from MID-RANGE AND 51% AT THE RIM. GO STRONG TO THE HOLE BLAKE.

I broke haiku rules.

 

Statistic support

For story provided by

NBA.com

LION FACE/LEMON FACE 4/26/13: CAN’T TAJ THIS


Miss any of last night’s action. Actually, so did I. I went to sleep at 10 and got a great night’s sleep, thanks for asking. Oh, what’s that? You want me to shut up and make with the .gifs and the jokes? I see how it is. ONWARD!

Lion Face

TAJ GIBSON OH MY GOD

Twitter exploded in a fury of exclamations and Taj Gibson puns last night, and for good reason. Even though Gibson didn’t quite dunk over Kris Humphries, it’s safe to assume he still smothered Humphries’ mortal soul. Dunk of the playoffs, so far.

Lemon Face

The Brooklyn Nets/C.J. Watson

First, there was this.

Courtesy of NBA.com

Courtesy of NBA.com

That, dear reader, is Brooklyn’s shot chart from the first half. It’s fine, I’ll wait until you return from wiping away the vomit you almost certainly just spewed all over your monitor.

Yet, somehow, the Nets valiantly fought pack from this putrid, wretched, makes-your-eyes-bleed first half shooting performance to not only bring the game within 3, but have the last possession as well. Truly, it was like an epic fantasy, complete with C.J. Watson, unceremoniously eschewed from the Bulls, set to exact revenge against his former team by tying the game. Watson sets up in the corner, receives the ball, and launches. Through the air the ball soars, climbing, climbing, climbing, then falling, falling, falling…and falling well short of the basket.

Lion Face

LARRY SANDERS!

Courtesy of SBNation

Courtesy of SBNation

No, it hasn’t quite turned out the way Brandon Jennings predicted. But at least we, and the Bucks, have LARRY SANDERS! And not just shotblocking LARRY SANDERS! But coast-to-coast dunking LARRY SANDERS! Too!

Lion Face

Zach Randolph

See. I knew it. Randolph’s just a big teddy bear. Also, an honorary Lion Face goes to Matt Barnes for not peeing his pants when Z-Bo stomps towards him. I would have immediately assumed the fetal position.

Lemon Face

DeAndre Jordan’s legs

Like 7/11, they’re open 24/7. What’s Marc Gasol’s favorite spice? NUTMEG! I’ll show myself out.

Lion Face

Ray Allen

Allen had his regular season three-point record broken by Steph Curry. No matter, says Allen, I’ll just go and get another record. Congratulations to Allen, now the owner of the most made three-pointers in playoff history.

15 FOOTER, 4/22/2013: The Most Deranged Playoff Preview You Will Ever Read

If you just opened this like I or someone else told you to, tie yourself down to whatever chair you’re sitting in, because this 15 Footer is going to be a fun f’ing ride.

For those of you that have your heads stuck under rocks, there was an epically fantastic e-mail sent out by a Delta Gamma sorority sister at the University of Maryland last week which has made its way around the interwebs at warp speed. It really is an e-mail we have all dreamed of writing at one time or another, so I tip my cap to her for actually having the guts to actually follow through on this. Inspired by her performance, let’s take a look at the playoff games on tap tonight.

Chicago at Brooklyn (8:00 PM, TNT)

First of all, Brooklyn, you SHOULDN’T be chanting BROOOOK-LYYYYYYYN at random times. I don’t give a crap if your boyfriend is chanting it, if your brother is chanting it, or if your entire family is chanting it. YOU DON’T CHANT IT RANDOMLY. And you ESPECIALLY do f’ing NOT convince others in your section to chant it with you at inopportune times. Kudos to the Nets crowd for getting it right by busting it out when up huge in a playoff game. On the court and away from the blackout in the Barclays crowd that would make CISPA opposers proud, Deron Williams looked fantastic in Game 1 providing 22 points and dishing out seven assists. He looks like he does not give an F, and he WILL f’ing assault Chicago in this series if this keeps up.

Newsflash: Teams that give up 80% shooting in a quarter generally don’t win playoff games. Chicago allowed Brooklyn to shoot 16-20 from the field during the second quarter in building a 25 point lead heading to halftime leading people to ask, “Are the Bulls going to reach 80 points?” That wasn’t a rhetorical question. People literally wanted to know if the Bulls would crack the 80 point barrier. They eventually hit the 80 point mark with 3:17 to go in the game. Oh wait, DOUBLE F’ING NEWSFLASH: Running your starters into the ground during the year may cause those players’ bodies to break down when it matter most. Luol Deng and Joakim Noah both finished in the top 15 in minutes per game this season, and Noah was noticeably hurting during his 13 gritty minutes on Saturday. He is expected to play through his plantar fasciitis tonight, but his impact is expected to be limited.

Prediction: If you’re a Bulls fan living in New York during the day, this following message is for you: DO NOT GO TO TONIGHT’S GAME. It’s not going to be pretty. Nets 101-92.

Memphis at LA Clippers (10:30 PM, TNT)

I do not give a flying crap, and the Clippers do not give a flying crap, about how much the Grizzlies rebounded this year. They had 82 games out of the f’ing year to rebound, and this week is apparently NOT, I repeat NOT ONE OF THEM. Memphis as a team pulled down 23 rebounds in Game 1 with 7’1″ Marc Gasol pulling down 2 and Zach Randolph, who averaged 11.2 rebounds per game this year, recording 4 boards. This week is about winning games in the basketball community, and that’s not f’ing possible if the Grizzlies are going to stand around and talk to each other and not focus on their matchup.

Chris Paul is the type of person that can cause people to send texts to others and get them cheering for the opposing team. The opposing. F’ing. Team. Personally, I cheer for my own team, and I don’t give a crap about sportsmanship, but CP3 is so much fun to watch. He was a point guard savant on Saturday in carving up the Memphis defense to the tune of 23 points and 7 assists while seamlessly shifting from facilitator to scorer and back again. To those that think that there is any sort of debate as to who the best point guard in the league is, I have to ask, HAVE YOU NEVER BEEN TO A SPORTS GAME? ARE YOU F’ING BLIND?

Prediction: Clippers 115-102. And for those of you who are offended at this pick, I would apologize but I really don’t give a crap. Just kidding, you guys are great. Enjoy the games!

Statistical Anomaly: Rockets @ Grizzlies

Statistical Anomaly is a series where we explore all the mathematical nuances you may not have noticed watching the game the first time. Today, Kyle waxes Euclidian on the Grizzlies “not as close as the final score indicates” win over the Rockets.

Quincy Pondexter, statistically speaking, is having his best season as a professional, but his play has had no impact on the final result. In fact, it has held an indirect relationship of late. Over the last 11 days, Pondexter is shooting 47.4% in losses and 18.8% in victories. Furthermore, Memphis was outscored by 12 points during his 16 minutes on the court and outscored Houston by 21 points in the other 32 minutes. That -12 plus/minus ratio is twice as bad as his cumulative ratio in the Grizzlies last four losses. As the playoffs approach, it is clear that Memphis can defend at a championship level (second best scoring defense in the NBA), but can they score enough? Don’t be surprised if they begin to phase out Pondexter in favor of an expanded offensive role for Tony Allen and Jerryd Bayless.

Mike Conley filled his role to perfection, allowing the Grizzlies to play up to their potential. Five of Memphis’ last eight wins have come when the underrated point guard records a double double, with the last three such games coming in wins against playoff bound teams. Conley excels at initiating the offense, and while he can score at a high level, his cerebral style allows the Grizz to maximize their offensive productivity. He isn’t as physically gifted as the highlight reel point guards in today’s game, but the ability to read and react is just as valuable (see Parker, Tony). Memphis isn’t being considered a title contender in the top heavy Western Conference, but there is little doubt in my mind that Conley has the tools to be a PG on a title winner.

Grizzlies

Over the last two months, the Grizzlies have lost one game when Marc Gasol and/or Zach Randolph attempt at least three free throws and shot at least 76% from the line. Both players did so against the Rockets, giving Memphis the rarest of combinations in the NBA: paint protectors with touch and the ability to be effective in late game situations. Both players can control the lane and step out for the mid range jump shot, forcing opponents to alter their typical rotation. The Grizzlies are a team that nobody wants to play, especially if they can get bench production.

Thomas Robinson went 2/10 from the field as his unpolished offensive game tends to appear on a regular basis. That being said, he battles on the glass at a strong level for a 22 year old, giving Rocket fans reason for optimism. The rookie is averaging 16 rebounds per 48 minutes over the last 2+ weeks, a stretch that includes games against the Spurs, Jazz, and Pacers. Robinson is lucky to be a Rocket and Houston is lucky to have a young forward who is physically ready to succeed right now.

This was the sixth consecutive game against a team battling for playoff position in which James Harden shot less than 38% from the field. Against the Grizzlies, Harden (the fifth leading scorer in the NBA) took more shots than just two of his teammates. Not that I doubt Harden’s talent, but we at least have to ask if he is ready for being the “go-to” guy on the big stage. Sure, he played well with the Thunder, but he wasn’t the focal point of opposing defenses for 48 minutes. Defenses are going to throw the kitchen sink at the crafty scorer, and lately, he hasn’t led his team against the upper portion of the league.

This was an interesting match up as it pitted a strong defensive unit against an elite offensive squad. The difference, however, was the Grizzlies versatility on offense and the poor defending of the Rockets. No playoff team wants to see either one of these teams, but for my money, it’s the Grizzlies that fit the postseason format better. They can run if need be, but they prefer to grind in the half court, and with their personal, they are probably the best team in the league at playing their game. The Rockets can run up and down the court, but could they beat any of the elite teams in a series format that way? I’d rather take my chances with the Grizzlies, a team that dictates pace and excels when they control the style of play. Who do you think is better prepared for the playoffs? Do you trust the team with a true star player, or would you rather roll with a balanced scoring attack? Fast paced offense or bloody your nose defense? Who ya got?

2013 All-Star Profiles: Zach Randolph

Photo from bestarns via Flickr

Photo from bestarns via Flickr

It’s not even surprising that Zach Randolph is an all-star at this point.

It’s a weird realization to have, but it’s true. This is only Z-Bo’s second all-star appearance (personally, I keep forgetting that he didn’t make it in 2011), and only the fourth year of his Memphis tenure (before which coaches wouldn’t even go near him for the all-star game), and yet, it feels as if Z-Bo just belongs and that’s that.

There was, perhaps, some discomfort that the “token Grizzlies spot”, if such a thing exists, went to him over Marc Gasol this year. However, such discomfort only survived so long before it was washed away by just how natural a part of today’s NBA it is to see Randolph in the all-star game. Just four years removed from the trade that brought him from Los Angeles to Memphis – an outright salary dump for which the Clippers were commended and the Grizzlies ridiculed – Zach Randolph’s transformation from malcontent to all-star is not just complete, it is so ingrained that we almost forget it ever happened.

Instead, the focus with Z-Bo is on that next level. Watching his rainbow jumper splash again and again on the Spurs and Thunder in the 2011 playoffs, it’s almost impossible not to view Randolph through a superstar prism. For that one spring, Randolph was a rare glimpse of brilliance, a surefire bucket in times of need and an offensive centerpiece rivaled only by an eventual Finals MVP in Dirk Nowitzki. It stands out against his career norms, but since Randolph’s entire time in Memphis stands out against his career norms anyway, expecting him to overachieve is almost part of the game. We were treated to the best, and we expect it back. Whether this is even remotely fair is irrelevant.

The Grizzlies depended on that Randolph to distressing degrees in 2011, asking him to carry an offense just high enough for the defense to get the knockout, and they promise to depend on another transcendent Randolph postseason just as much in a post-Rudy Gay world. As balanced and defensively brilliant as this Memphis team may be, the offense was always over-dependent on the individual abilities of either Randolph or Gay to create. This is partially by design – a confusing, deservedly criticized design – but it is a design that has worked for the Grizzlies in the aggregate, one that could, if subjected to any further tweaks, potentially proving disastrous to a delicate locker room situation.

Is Randolph even capable of replicating such heights? It’s a fair question. We’ve only seldom seen 2011 Randolph ever since those playoffs. This contest stands out as the best example, but it came against your Phoenix Suns, hardly the Thunder or  Spurs. That player may no longer exist.

One can easily make the case that even 2010 Randolph is long gone – the past two seasons have seen Z-Bo post career lows in usage rate and points per minute. Randolph’s game is built around phenomenal hands and a low center of gravity, not so much elite athleticism, but Father Time works in mysterious ways, and Father Time dictates that Randolph is 31 years old and had serious knee issues in the past. It’s possible that this is the last year an all-star selection for Randolph is met by a collective nod of approval.

But Randolph was so good in those playoffs, just two years ago, that he has some leeway with us. This, too, would be unimaginable just a few years ago – Zach Randolph! Leeway! Imagine the odds! – but that just goes to show how deep his transformation has gone. For now, we’ll accept him with open arms, an all-star berth that was basically a coin toss between him and his teammate, and hopes that he can be a short-term superstar once again.