Grizzlies rush to LeBron’s defense in his decline to meet with St. Jude patient

Memphis Grizzlies veteran swingman Mike Miller joined the Miami Heat the same year LeBron James bolted Cleveland for South Beach.

FULL PLATE --- Miami Heat superstar LeBron James was heavily criticized after he reportedly declined to meet with St. Children's Research Hospital patient earlier this week. Grizzlies players Zach Randolph and Mike Miller were among those who defended James. (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE Getty Images)

FULL PLATE — Miami Heat superstar LeBron James was heavily criticized after he reportedly declined to meet with a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patient earlier this week. Grizzlies players Zach Randolph and Mike Miller were among those who defended James. (Photos by Joe Murphy/NBAE Getty Images)

Among the things Miller deemed mostly intriguing about James is how he often went out of his way to give back to the community.

“He’s about as giving as I’ve ever seen,” Miller said of James.

 

Which, of course, is why Miller was among those who sensed there was more to James’ decision in declining to meet earlier this week with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patient Josh Hardy as reported by Memphis’ WREG News Channel 3.

Hardy was a recipient of St. Jude’s Make A Dream Come True. Among his wishes was to attend Wednesday night’s Heat versus Grizzlies game so he could watch James, his favorite player, in action. However, after a request by WREG through a Heat media relations representative to have James meet with Hardy, the two-time reigning league MVP reportedly declined the inquiry.

Still, Hardy was among the 18,000-plus witnesses in attendance and sat in a luxury suite to watch Memphis outlast the two-time defending champs, 107-102, and keep alive its playoff hopes.

Though Hardy didn’t get to meet James, he was given paraphernalia by the Grizzlies organization and got to meet Quincy Pondexter, his favorite player on the team.

Pondexter, the Grizzlies reserve shooting guard who is sidelined with a season-ending tarsal navicular stress fracture in his right foot he suffered in a December 7 game against Golden State, sat with Hardy during the game and gave him a basketball that was signed by his teammates.

Grizzlies All-Star power forward Zach Randolph was among the players who autographed Hardy’s basketball, although he said he wasn’t aware that James had declined to meet with the St. Jude patient until after shootaround Friday morning.

Memphis played host to the Philadelphia 76ers Friday at 7 p.m. CST.

Randolph, who in November was given NBA’s Community Assist Award in recognition of his charitable efforts and contributions in the community, said James’ decision not to meet with Hardy could have been because of a conflict in his schedule. Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies was the last on back-to-back nights for the Heat, who hosted the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

Miller played three seasons with James and said he was a fixture in giving back to  the community.

Miller played three seasons with James and said he was a fixture in giving back to the community.

“LeBron does a lot,” Randolph said. He probably was busy. LeBron is a great guy. You know, he does a lot for the community and for the kids. So that’s (Wednesday’s decline) nothing. He’ll probably fly the kid to meet him.”

Miller, who re-signed with the Grizzlies in July after a six-year absence, also rushed to James’ defense, saying the situation likely was a misunderstanding.

“Knowing LeBron as much as I know I him, I doubt the information even got to him,” Miller said. “He takes all of those requests.”

Asked if he believed because the Heat played on consecutive nights was a factor in James having turned down a request to meet with the patient, Miller said, “I think he would have met with him still. I think with that, it had to do with a situation where he probably didn’t get the information.”

While Randolph and Miller wouldn’t say whether they sensed the controversy surrounding James has been blown out of proportion, both agreed the 10-year veteran and four-time league MVP’s track record is such that he is committed to giving back to underprivileged individuals. “He gets those request a lot,” Miller said. Believe me, when it comes to St. Jude and children and giving back, he’s going to do that.”

That James was labeled a “punk” and “thug” by several WREG viewers was unwarranted, Miller said.

“The bottom line is no one knows anybody,” he said. “Until you get to know somebody, it’s difficult to judge them. I reserve judgment on everybody I know.”

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Zach Randolph ‘relieved’ after Grizzlies announce they have dismissed trade talks

It appears Zach Randolph will remain with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Whether his tenure with the team will last beyond the Feb. 20 NBA trade deadline is still uncertain.

According to multiple media reports, Grizzlies officials earlier this week said they have no immediate plans to trade their star power forward, a two-time All-Star who was the catalyst of the team’s postseason success in recent years.

WALKING IN MEMPHIS --- Grizzlies star Zach Randolph appeared relieved after learning Saturday morning that the team officials said they have no immediate plans of trading the two-time All-Star power forward. (Photo by Christopher Davis/MemphiSport

WALKING IN MEMPHIS — Grizzlies star Zach Randolph appeared relieved after learning Saturday morning that the team officials said they have no immediate plans of trading the two-time All-Star power forward. (Photo by Chris Evans/MemphiSport

After learning of the latest developments surrounding his possible trade, Randolph said he’s “relieved,” reiterating, among things, that he wants to retire as a member of the organization.

“They know I want to be here,” Randolph told MemphiSport following the Grizzlies’ shootaround Saturday morning in the team’s practice facility. “I’ve been here. They know I want to retire here.”

Now in his fifth season with Memphis following brief stints with Portland, the New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Clippers, Randolph initially became the subject of trade talks earlier this month when he reportedly was being rumored to be dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans for fellow big Ryan Anderson.

Then, according to various media reports, “a reliable NBA insider” on Dec. 19 reported that the Brooklyn Nets were contemplating preparing a package that would send 16-year veteran Paul Pierce and future draft picks to the Grizzlies for Randolph, a two-time All-Star who is in his 13th NBA season.

While the Pelicans and Grizzlies have strongly denied having discussed a trade that centered on Randolph and Anderson, Randolph — who admittedly was “hurt” after learning the team reportedly was considering shopping him — said he isn’t sure why he is constantly being rumored to be dealt, although he believes his current contract might be the underlying factor as the trade deadline looms.

Randolph, 32, is in the third of a four-year deal that is worth $71 million. Although the Marion, Ind. native has a player option for next year, Randolph would generate in the neighborhood of $16 million if he returns to the Grizzlies for the 2013-14 campaign.

“I don’t know…money,” Randolph said, explaining why his name keeps swirling surrounding a possible trade. “Small market team. You know, money plays a part. It’s the money.”

Regardless of what transpires as the trade deadline approaches, Randolph said his primary focus in the meantime is help revitalize an injury-ridden Grizzlies team that entered Saturday night’s game against Denver four games below the .500 mark. Losers of six of their last nine, Memphis, which advanced to the Western Conference Finals last year after posting the highest winning percentage (.063) in franchise history, currently is 3 ½ games back for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Randolph scored a team-high 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting in 30-plus minutes Saturday to help lift the Grizzlies to their largest margin of victory this season in FedExForum, 120-99, over the Nuggets.

“Like I said, I’m going to be professional either way,” Randolph, the Grizzlies’ second-leading scorer, said when asked to assess the team’s decision to dismiss trade talks. “I’m going to play hard every night. It’s a job. I’m going to come out and be professional and do my job.”

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist