Zach Randolph Injury: When Will Z-Bo Return to Memphis Grizzlies Lineup?

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIFebruary 3, 2012

MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 13:  Zach Randolph #50 of the Memphis Grizzlies drives against Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on May 13, 2011 in Memphis, Tennessee.  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 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Zach's Randolph's partial MCL tear has made for uncertain times for the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have had to rework their offense and their roster to bring in fresh bodies for the power forward position. Even though the Grizzlies have survived, they should hope that Randolph return sooner rather than later.

Such hopes have been affirmed in the MRI results for Randolph's knee. Randolph, who suffered the tear in the Grizzlies 104-64 loss to the Chicago Bulls, is coming along very well with rehabilitation and is on schedule with his recovery, according to The Commercial Appeal.

"I don't have a timetable for the date he's back," Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said. "But there's no bad news. There are no red flags or talk of surgery."

This is a great sign for Randolph and the Grizzlies. If Randolph, who was originally scheduled to miss six to eight weeks, comes back the first game after the All-Star break, then he would have missed 29 games and seven and a half weeks. Randolph may not qualify for NBA statistical leaderboards, but he would be able to have more than half the season in the books.

Further, if Randolph and the Grizzlies can make a push to the playoffs, that is, if the Grizzlies survive a February schedule that sees them playing 11 of their 14 games against teams with winning records, then he would be able to flex his playoff might like he did last season.

Randolph averaged 22.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in the 2011 playoffs as he led the Grizzlies' push into a Western Conference semifinals.

For the Grizzlies, Randolph's timely return would mean a return to normal style of offense that they run. With Randolph and Marc Gasol as the stout post players, the Grizzlies generally run a double post offense. In the double post offense, Gasol and Randolph both work the ball inside and out.

They'll back defenders down before dropping hook shots or dunks, or play off pick-and-rolls for outside shots.

When Randolph went down, Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated wrote that "with Randolph out, a Memphis team that was a League Pass favorite last year loses a big part of its identity."

Just before saying that, Lowe dismissed the Grizzlies as a lottery team. Many others did the same when Randolph was reported to be out six to eight weeks.

However, the Grizzlies are 12-10, half a game away from the last spot in the Western Conference playoff race.

That's because the Grizzlies have reconfigured their offense around what they still have. Rudy Gay is paving the way, averaging 19.1 points per game and leading a team that relies more on scoring in transition now. Tony Allen is scoring 10.3 points per game since Randolph went down, significantly more than he usually scores.

Marc Gasol is averaging career highs in scoring and rebounding, as he's become the primary post player and only serious scorer in the post with Randolph out.

The Grizzlies, a team based on selflessness, is finding ways to win with Randolph out, just as it did after losing Gay for the season last February.

Still, the Grizzlies would do better in the stretch run with Randolph in the lineup. With a timely return in order for Randolph, the Grizzlies should be right in the middle of the playoff chase, not on the outside as it currently stands.

Indeed, the Grizzlies might take a little bit of time transitioning back to the double post offense. Randolph might take a few games to get used to playing at full speed again. Nevertheless, he'll be able to help kick the Grizzlies into high gear for the playoff race.