Last week, I wrote about why the Grizzlies should NOT deliberately lose games so they can earn a higher draft pick. In short, I wrote that any decision to “tank” would come from the Front Office in the form of resting key players (Marc Gasol), giving more minutes to young players (Jarell Martin, Deyonta Davis, Dillon Brooks), and not rushing back injured stars (Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons).
Some of these are already happening. It’s great to see young players develop on the court, even if it racks up losses. The problem for the pro-tankers is that it hasn’t racked up nearly as many losses. Some of the credit (blame?) goes to Gasol, whose mediocre play still helps the team stay competitive most nights.
No, the culprit (hero?) who is leading the Grizzlies to too many wins is former Tiger Tyreke Evans. Signed on a bargain $3.3 million deal, Evans is the Grizzlies’ most tradeable player now, not just for his on-court production (18 points, seven assists, 5.5 rebounds in January).
The thinking is: Get something for him now – a draft pick and/or young player – rather than have him walk for nothing in the summer. It’s sound reasoning. And yes, if you take his 18 points out of the lineup, it would almost certainly result in more losses – and better odds in the NBA Draft Lottery.
If only trades were that easy. Evans is a ball dominant player, which teams would need to factor into how they run their offense. The ideal suitor would also need to believe Evans would help them make the playoffs and/or make a deep run. And then, suitors would also be thinking the same thing as Memphis: If we like him, can we re-sign him? And do we want to give up young potential for an older guard with a history of injury?
And that’s assuming the Grizzlies don’t have to package another asset to make the deal. This is where it gets really tricky because . . . WHO? Let’s assume that Gasol and Mike Conley are untouchable. Most of the other potential trade assets on this team are injured (Brandan Wright, Chandler Parsons), have little trade value (Wayne Selden, Mario Chalmers) or are unproven (Ben McLemore, Andrew Harrison).
At the end of the day, I do expect Evans to be traded before the Feb. 8 deadline. To which team and for whom is anyone’s guess. Until then, expect Tyreke to keep messing everything up by helping the team win.
Zach Randolph keeps giving
Regardless of which uniform Zach Randolph suits up in – whether he finishes the season with the Sacramento Kings or is traded – it’s safe to say that his heart is still in Memphis.
Fans welcomed Z-Bo back to Memphis on Jan. 19. The standing ovations, the autographs, the video tribute – it was heartwarming to watch the city shower No. 50 with love. On the court, he only scored four points to go with five rebounds. The Grizzlies won, 106-88. But it was what happened the next day that shows why Randolph is adored in the Bluff City.
Right around noon on Saturday, MIFA announced Randolph’s annual $20,000 donation to help low-income families pay high utility bills during the winter season.
But that’s not all. MIFA announced the “Zach4Families” fund – a way for donors to honor Z-Bo while supporting families in need. MIFA’s press release said that donations will be used to provide “basic services to prevent homelessness, stabilize families, and encourage independence. Services include the hotline for homeless families, utility assistance and education, rent and mortgage assistance, emergency shelter placement, and rapid rehousing.”
The city rallied around Randolph when he led the home team to wins. But they also mourned with him in 2016, when his mother, Mae Randolph, died unexpectedly on Thanksgiving Day. I mentioned that she’s probably smiling down on him.
“She definitely is. That’s my anchor,” Randolph said. “I miss her everyday, but I know she’s got to be very very proud of me. She’s watching over me, guiding me. I gotta be very thankful for that.”
At the event, I also asked: “Zach, a lot’s been made of what you’ve given to the City of Memphis. But what has Memphis given to YOU?”
“Love,” he responded. “Having my back, through the good times and the bad times. Making me feel the love. (People) made Memphis my home, with open arms. It’s a give-give situation. They give a lot to me still.”
After his remarks, it was back to being the affable big lug that Memphis fell in love with. He paused for every picture, shook every hand, took every selfie. He offered some tips to children who came with their parents. Only after almost all fans had left did he get back into his truck.
Sure, it’s nice to have a multimillionaire benefactor who gives back to help your city. But what means even more to Randolph and to his adopted hometown is the genuine love and affection we share.
Zach keeps giving love. Memphis will keep giving it right back.