Last season was a nightmare for Zach Randolph. A partially torn right MCL cost the power forward 38 games and subsequent conditioning problems limited his effectiveness in a first-round loss to the Clippers. Now, Randolph says his knee is healthy after spending the off-season with University of Memphis strength coach Frank Matrisciano doing "chameleon training," a regimen that included climbing floor-to-ceiling pipes and running in a sand pit with a 30-pound weight. "I definitely had a lot of motivation," says Randolph, 31. "A sour taste will probably be in my mouth until we start the playoffs."
Keeping opposing defenders off Randolph—along with center Marc Gasol—will be the biggest challenge. Memphis ranked 25th in three-point shooting (32.6%) last season and the team's top perimeter threat, O.J. Mayo, signed with the Mavericks. The Grizzlies will need Wayne Ellington, a 37.6% career three-point shooter, and second-year guard Josh Selby to fill that void.
COACH: Lionel Hollins (7th season with Grizzlies)
2011--12 RECORD: 41--25 (2nd in Southwest)
OFFENSE: 95.0 ppg (20th)
DEFENSE: 93.0 ppg (5th)
PICK-AND-ROLL OFFENSE: 22.2 ppg (19th)
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE GRIZZLIES
Nobody is better in the low post than Zach Randolph, period. They throw it to him and get out of his way. He's a pure one-on-one player.... Marc Gasol is the glue—he can score low, at the foul line, rebound and defend. He gets better every year. Marc and Zach complement each other perfectly. Zach likes the right box, Marc likes the left. Marc likes to play high, Zach owns the block. Marc catches at the high post and can make that 15-footer consistently.... They're the weakest perimeter shooting team in the league. Rudy Gay needs to knock down shots when the double team comes, because every team is going to sag down and double Zach and Marc.... Mike Conley is not elite, but he's right on the next level. He was so up and down, but the last two years he has taken control. You have to respect his range now. He is a very good pick-and-roll player.... They don't have anyone who can replace O.J. Mayo's shooting, but Jerryd Bayless is a much better backup at the point. Conley won't wear down as much because they can trust Bayless to run the team.... Tony Allen is only good for his defense. He scares me when he has the ball.
The Grizzlies find their touch from the perimeter, allowing Randolph to muscle them into the conference finals.
Rudy Gay's gunning fails to complement the power game, resulting in a second straight first-round exit.
Steals per game by the Grizzlies, the second straight season in which they led the league. Mike Conley and Tony Allen were the NBA's top thieving tandem, combining for 240 steals.
JOE MURPHY/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (RANDOLPH)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (CONLEY)