Zach Randolph Injury: Z-Bo Could Return to Memphis Grizzlies Lineup vs. Raptors

Tom FirmeAnalyst IIMarch 16, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 01:  Forward Zach Randolph #50  and Marc Gasol #33 of the Memphis Grizzlies celebrate a 114-101 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 1, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  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

Zach Randolph is feeling good and could be back in the Memphis Grizzlies lineup on Friday against the Toronto Raptors, according to The Commercial Appeal. This would be a highly welcomed and anticipated lineup change for the Grizzlies. Getting Randolph back would be a huge lift for the Grizzlies in the playoff race.

Randolph was extraordinarily happy after hearing the news that he could play against the Raptors. He was quoted by The Commercial Appeal's Ron Tillery via Twitter as saying through a grin, "It's a surprise. It's a good chance."

Randolph had a great practice with the Grizzlies on Thursday. He was exuberant afterward.

"Thursday was the best I felt," Randolph said. "I got my confidence back. It was a mental thing and a timing thing."

For Randolph, timing and mental form had been important in recovery. He had previously been hesitant in making cuts in non-contact drills and his earlier practices with the team. Initially, in practice, he didn't seem completely up to speed.

Now, Randolph could make his first appearance since January 1, when he suffered a partial MCL tear against the Chicago Bulls. Randolph has missed 37 games since then.

Randolph's presence will be crucial for the Grizzlies as they approach a critical stretch in their schedule. In late March and early April, they'll play 10 games in 12 against teams with winning records, seven of which are on the road. They'll play eight games in 10 on the road during that time.

The Grizzlies have struggled on the road, going 9-11. They've only won two games against winning teams on the road.

Having Randolph back will do wonders to diversify offensive looks. They'll have more inside-out opportunities with him at power forward than they do with Marreese Speights. Also, Lionel Hollins will once again be able to create the mirrored looks in the post and on pick-and-rolls that he like to do with Randolph and Marc Gasol.

Another player who could return to the lineup is Rudy Gay, who suffered a concussion against the Denver Nuggets and missed the game on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers. Gay practiced with the team on Thursday.

Hopefully, Randolph does return on Friday. Beating the Raptors isn't much of a challenge, but having Randolph acclimate himself against a weak team like them would help him prepare for more difficult games as he completes his recovery.

Currently sitting fourth in the Western Conference, the Grizzlies could lock up a home playoff series with Randolph playing in the stretch run.