All-Star power forward Zach Randolph had a player option in his contract for the 2014-15 NBA season, but on Friday, he and the Memphis Grizzlies wound up extending their union with a contract extension.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported the news:
After exercising his $16.5M player option for 2014-'15, Zach Randolph has agreed to 2-year, $20M extension with Memphis, sources tell Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 27, 2014
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated warned that Randolph's departure would have been a tough blow for Memphis to absorb:
If Zach Randolph opts out and goes elsewhere, things could get pretty ugly in Memphis.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) May 21, 2014
The player option stipulates that Randolph makes $16.5 million in salary this coming season, with incentives sweetening the deal to close to $17 million, per Spotrac.com.
Randolph led the Grizzlies with 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game this past season, showing off his versatile offensive game that makes him as a threat on the lower block and also a formidable face-up shooter. The combination of him and Marc Gasol formed one of the better front lines in the NBA.
Although defense has never been what Randolph is most known for, his thick frame and athleticism for his size allowed him to plug in as a viable cog in Memphis' unit that yielded just 94.6 points per contest in 2013-14, third-fewest among the 30 teams.
All of those circumstances and Randolph's unique skill set deemed him worthy of being locked up for the long term to stay in Memphis. ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported what general manager Chris Wallace said to The Commercial Appeal (subscription required) regrading a new deal for Randolph on June 21:
It's going forward. We're very excited about what Zach's done in the past and hope to have him here in the future. This has really been a terrific boon for both sides.
He's obviously meant a great deal to us on and off the court. And Memphis has worked for him. This has been, by far, the best stop for him since he's been in the NBA. So we're working towards that goal [of a new contract].
Both parties have appeared keen on reaching an agreement, making this marriage between the Grizzlies and Randolph a perpetual perfect fit.
It would have been an unceremonious end to Randolph's time with the Grizzlies had he elected to test the waters of free agency.
Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams has been known to get under opponents' skin, and Randolph punched him in Memphis' opening-round playoff series. That caused him to be suspended for Game 7, which the Grizzlies lost, 120-109.
Randolph appeared destined to return after finding a niche in Memphis following previous stops in Portland, New York and with the Los Angeles Clippers, where he hadn't clicked with those organizations.
Last November, Stein sat down with Randolph to get a gauge on where the standout big man stood as far as his potential return to Memphis beyond the 2013-14 campaign:
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.
That mentality didn't change even after the disappointing postseason ended.
"I made it clear I want to retire here," said Randolph, per Fox Sports Tennessee's Brandon Speck. "It's my home. This is where I want to be."
It appears Randolph's wishes will be granted, barring an unforeseen trade or fallout with the organization.
Just about anything can happen in the deep Western Conference, so it makes sense general manager Chris Wallace wanted to keep Randolph and the rest of this promising nucleus intact. Between Gasol and swingman Tony Allen, there are two elite defenders inside and outside, and underrated, electric point guard Mike Conley Jr. has proven capable of being the floor general the team needs.
But Randolph is the emotional leader who has finally come into his own with the Grizzlies and appears happier than ever. The Game 7 suspension in the Oklahoma City series should only drive him to maintain a high level of play and help drive Memphis even further in the 2015 playoffs.
With Randolph signing, the Grizzlies drafting UCLA shooting guard Jordan Adams makes even more sense. Adams' scoring touch is a fantastic complement to the pieces Memphis already has in place and fills a significant need for a team that has been looking for reliable scoring from its guards for several years now. Pairing Randolph and Gasol with a scorer like Adams should be fantastic for the Grizzlies in the coming years.