Memphis' bruising power forward and resident double-double machine is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in 2014. Randolph has a player option worth nearly $17 million he can exercise or he can declare for free agency and seek a new contract with the Grizzlies or elsewhere.
Asked by ESPN's Marc Stein how he'll decide what to do this coming summer, Randolph pledged his allegiance to the Grizzlies organization:
I’d like to be here. I’d like to retire here. You never know. If I’ve got to make some sacrifices to be here, I would. I still can play. I can still help a team out. I want to win a championship. I’ve made all the money in the world. I just want to win. I don’t know yet [about opting in or opting out], but Memphis is my home. If they trade me tomorrow, I’m here. I just bought a new house. My daughters go to school [in Memphis]. That’s my home.
All the money in the world, eh? Perhaps he would be willing to accept a pay cut to remain in Memphis, his "home." That is, if the Grizzlies don't trade him first.
Usually, in these situations, the free-agent-to-be holds most, if not all, of the leverage. Randolph's case is unique because he plays for the Grizzlies.
Less than a year ago, it was the Grizzlies who dumped Rudy Gay's hefty contract in favor of salary cap relief and, most notably, Ed Davis. The 24-year-old Davis has been heralded by many as Randolph's inevitable replacement. Like Z-Bo, he too will be due for a new contract this summer.
The Grizzlies can and will extend a $4.4 million qualifying offer to Davis following this season, making him a restricted free agent. While he could return to Memphis for the last year of his rookie contract, it's likely he fields a more lucrative offer from another team.
Though the Grizzlies will have the right to match any contract Davis signs, they'll have to make a decision first: Do they pay Randolph and Davis, or just one? And if they elect to pay just one, who will it be?
Rumors have followed Randolph since the middle of last season. Even after Gay was traded last season, ESPN's Chad Ford, via the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Chris Herrington reported that the Grizzlies may not be opposed to moving the power forward. With $48-plus million in guaranteed contracts devoted to seven players next season, not including Randolph's $16.9 million option, the rumor mill may start churning again. And soon.
Z-Bo's loyalty is admirable, but that doesn't change the market he plays in. Memphis is frugal because it must be. Next July, Randolph will turn 32 and with Marc Gasol slated to hit the open market in 2015, the Grizzlies may not be prepared to invest enough time or money in Randolph to convince him to stay. They may not even want to.
You have to imagine Randolph's fealty only runs so deep, too. Either he'll accept a pay cut in favor of a longer contract, or he'll want to build upon the $138.6 million fortune he's amassed over the last 13 years. It's one or the other, just like it will be for the Grizzlies.
“I don’t know yet," is the answer Z-Bo will give when pressed about his future in Memphis, per Stein.
Ambiguous responses suit him. He doesn't know yet. Nor do the Grizzlies. All Randolph knows is he wants to win. What none of us know is if he'll be around long enough to do it in Memphis.
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