Zach Randolph Injury: Memphis Grizzlies Must Step Up as When Rudy Gay Was out

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIJanuary 5, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 15:  (L-R) Forward Zach Randolph #50 and Rudy Gay walk off the court after a 90-105 loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Seven of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  The Thunder defeated the Grizzlies to advance to the Western Conference Finals.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

When Zach Randolph went down with what was revealed to be a partial MCL tear, the Memphis Grizzlies lost a huge part of their offense.  Randolph, who averaged better than 20 points and 11 rebounds in each of the past two seasons for the Grizzlies, will miss six-to-eight weeks due to the tear, according to The Commercial Appeal. Many believe the Grizzlies are done without Randolph. 

However, they have a glimmer of hope.

While it's easy to write the Grizzlies off with their best player out, one thing is bigger than Randolph himself.  That's the team bond.  The Grizzlies have superb chemistry like few other teams in the league. The Grizzlies rise and fall as a team.

During the lockout, Mike Conley organized practices in Memphis, which most Grizzlies players attended.

Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph planned to play in Europe together if the lockout persisted.

Several Grizzlies players played together at Impact Basketball during the summer.

The chemistry the Grizzlies hold will have to guide the Grizzlies with Randolph missing. Winning without a star player like Randolph is difficult, but doable.  The Grizzlies did it last season when Rudy Gay suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

The Grizzlies rallied after Gay went down. As they went 14-9 to finish the regular season with Gay out, players stepped up all around. Randolph shot 57.3 percent in March and 55.4 percent from the field in April that season before going off for 22.2 points per game in the playoffs. Marc Gasol shot almost 10 percent better from the field in March.

Tony Allen, traditionally a non-scorer, averaged 14 points per game in March, more than five points better than his season average.

Also, the Grizzlies batten the hatches down on defense with Gay out, allowing 97.8 points per game in March and 92.7 points per game in April.

The Grizzlies will need to transform their game with Randolph out, just as they did with Randolph out. This is a good time to up the ante on defense.  Randolph is often considered to be a defensive liability. If that's the case, the Grizzlies can show how well they can shut down defenses without Randolph. That means denying the entry pass and being tough on the inside.

A team that prides itself of defensive toughness, the Grizzlies need to get even tougher with Randolph out.

Most importantly, a few players need to raise their scoring. Gay particularly needs to score more. Gay's only averaging 15.8 points per game. He'll need to return to form quickly to help the Grizzlies hold on.

Marc Gasol is scoring fairly well at 12.8 points per game, but the Grizzlies will need around 15 points per game from him.

Conley will need to step up. Conley scored 26 points in the two games since returning from an ankle injury. He'll need to score a bit more than his 13.7 points per game from last season.

Seeing newly acquired Marreese Speights contribute a fair amount would be nice. However, as he showed up to Philadelphia 76ers practice out of shape at the end of the lockout, he and oft-winded Hamed Haddadi will need some quality time in the workout room to be effective.

Gasol will need all the help he can get up front.

Getting by without Randolph will be difficult. He's one of the 15 best players in the game and one of the three best power forwards. Nevertheless, the Grizzlies must do it together. They've done alright thus far, recovering from the debacle against the Chicago Bulls to win two straight without him.