Saying he would like to retire as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, Zach Randolph on Friday said he expects to remain with the team at least through the end of the season.
Randolph was responding for the first time since team officials said they would not trade the 12-year veteran power forward before season’s end. Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien and Randolph met on Thursday in what Randolph described as a “brief discussion” regarding his future with the team.
While the 31-year-old Randolph said he came away from the meeting with Levien convinced that he will finish out his fourth full season with the Grizzlies, he was quick to point out he’s fully aware that things could change before the February 21 deadline.
“I can’t say nothing to squash the rumors,” Randolph said before Friday’s game against Golden State. “But I tell you what, this is my city. If they trade me tomorrow, I’d still be here. I got a new house here. I’m going to continue to do what I do here in the summer with the camps. So this will continue to be my city.”
Randolph’s comments surrounding trade rumors came nine days after the Grizzlies traded franchise player Rudy Gay to Toronto in a three-team, six-player deal. Like Randolph, Gay, who led Memphis in scoring for the past two seasons, had become the subject of constant trade talks, particularly when the Grizzlies’ struggled to a 7-7 mark in January.
And, in recent weeks, team officials said they have spoken with a number of teams inquiring about Randolph, who will be making his second All-Star appearance next week in Houston. However, after his latest meeting with Levien, whom Randolph said assured him he would not be dealt before the end of this season, the Marion, Indiana native said he expects such talks to go away in the coming weeks.
Randolph currently is in the second of a four-year deal worth a reported $71 million ($66 million guaranteed).
““I talked with Jason and I told him ‘I’m a Grizzly for life’,” said Randolph, whose career also includes stints with Portland, New York, and the Los Angeles Clippers. “But if he traded me tomorrow, I’m going to be a Grizzly for life. This is where I want to finish my career. You know, I have came in and seen changes, and we started being a winning franchise. So this is where I’d like to retire. But I also understand this is a business, so I’m not overwhelmed by the (trade) rumors. I’ve been traded before. I’m used to it. I’m used to the rumors.”
In addressing the media before Friday’s game, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins admitted that while he wasn’t in agreement with management’s decision to trade Gay, he’s still a “team player” in that he must devise ways to get the most out of his current roster. Prior to dealing Gay, the Grizzlies on January 22 traded reserves Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby, and a future first-round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Jon Leuer.
“Both trades that were made, they kept me abreast with what was going on,” Hollins said. “And I voiced my opinion and they went with what they had. But my responsibility is to coach the team with the players we have, and that’s what I try to do and that’s what I will continue to try to do.”
After the trade involving Gay, Randolph, whose 30 double-doubles is second-best in the NBA, now leads the Grizzlies in scoring, averaging 15.7 points per game. However, the 6-foot-9 Randolph has been inconsistent of late for Memphis, which is 2-3 and has dropped one spot to fifth place in the Western Conference standings since dealing the seven-year veteran to the Raptors.
When asked if such ongoing trade talks have been a distraction for the Grizzlies, Randolph said, “Probably in the beginning. But we’ve got to understand this is a business. I’ve been in the NBA for 12 years. So this is no different than hearing my name in rumors.”
Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, meanwhile, isn’t buying into the notion that the team’s roster changes in recent weeks may have affected its chemistry.
“I leave that for you guys,” Gasol said after Memphis snapped a two-game winless streak Friday with a 99-93 win against the Warriors. “Coach (Grizzlies Lionel Hollins) has addressed it. I think it’s over with. Did that affect us? I don’t think that was the issue here, so I refuse to accept that. I don’t believe rumors. I really don’t. It doesn’t take away from the fact that you’ve got to play basketball and bring it every night.
“I think every player in this locker room, if you ask the GM or CEO, they’ll tell you they got people asking about every player in here,” Gasol continued. But this is the NBA…where amazing happens, so you can’t worry about that stuff. When you hide behind rumors, those are excuses, and we can not allow excuses.”