Zach Randolph has now been out of action for more than six weeks. Randolph underwent another MRI on Monday, and the Memphis Grizzlies received good news for their star forward. However, the question remains when exactly will the Grizzlies bring Randolph back into the lineup.
Randolph's MRI result on Monday revealed continuing progress. According to The Commercial Appeal, Randolph's knee showed continued healing. Grizzlies' doctors cleared Randolph for non-contact drills. The Commercial Appeal also noted that Randolph, who suffered a partial-MCL tear in a January 1 loss to the Chicago Bulls, could begin full-contact drills within the eight-week window.
This is cause for smiles for Randolph and the Grizzlies. Memphis has been growling in pain recently with Randolph out. Initially, Marreese Speights had been a nice replacement for Randolph, averaging 9.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in his first eight games after being acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in a three-team trade.
Speights has averaged only 6.4 points per game on 34.7 percent from the field in the last 13 games.
The Grizzlies have been woeful recently, losing eight of their last 11 games. With Speights struggling to hit shots, the Grizzlies rarely have someone come up in relief of Marc Gasol when the Spanish center isn't hitting his shots. Particularly on the road, where Gasol isn't himself—that causes problems for the Grizzlies.
Gasol would benefit greatly from Randolph's return. Randolph and Gasol work extremely well together, mirroring each other in the post. They both play above the rim very well and play off pick-and-rolls for outside shots.
Randolph was the key to the Grizzlies' playoff run last year. He had 22.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in the playoffs as the Grizzlies pushed the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games in the Western Conference semifinals.
When Will Z-Bo Be Back in the Grizzlies' Lineup?
If the estimate by The Commercial Appeal is correct regarding Randolph's start with full-contact drills, Randolph would resume full-contact drills on February 27—a day after the All-Star Game. While one would like to see him start full-contact drills before then, Lionel Hollins might not be able to get him going that quickly since the Grizzlies play their last game before the All-Star break in a week.
Similarly, an ideal scenario would see Randolph come back on February 29 against the Dallas Mavericks. However, that might not give him enough time with full-contact drills before coming back. Also, it wouldn't give the Grizzlies enough time running practice with Randolph in the offense.
The Grizzlies would need plenty of time to transition back to the double-post offense they run with Gasol and Randolph.
The first week of March may be more realistic for Randolph's return. March 7 against the Golden State Warriors might be better since the Grizzlies have three days off before that game. Given proper preparation, the Grizzlies would be able to bring Randolph back to the lineup and tear it up with their best player.