While the NBA is working on making its return to action like many other sports, we take a look back at an underrated player from recent years.
If you were a basketball fan for any period of time in the past 15-plus years, you knew one thing. When Zach Randolph‘s team came into your building, it would be a tough night. He was the No. 1 player out of his high school class in 2000 before opting to play one year at Michigan State.
The Portland Days
The first six years of Randolph’s career were played with the Portland Trail Blazers. When he first became a starter in his third season, he was unstoppable.
Playing more than 21 minutes a game than the prior year, he averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds per game. He began to establish himself as a young force in the league.
The team would only reach the postseason once during his time as a starter, ultimately losing a wild series to the Mavericks in seven games. Starting the final four contests of the series, he would average 21 points and 11 rebounds.
They did not have an answer for him. He lasted four more years there, continuing to put up numbers.
His dominance didn’t lead to victories each night, but he made life very difficult for his matchup on the nightly. He’s famous for saying, “Where I come from, bullies get bullied.” He took his opponents to the low post and tore them to shreds.
The Brief Knicks Chapter
If you forgot that Randolph played for the Knicks, you are probably not the only one. It was a short chapter in which they really didn’t win too many games.
But Randolph continued to do what he did to the opposition. He dominated on the glass despite barely getting off the ground. And he was scoring from every inch of the paint.
He averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds during his first year, though the rest of the team struggled mightily. The Knicks were not doing much winning at this period.
He averaged 21 and 13 over the first 11 games of the following season in 2008-09, before his time in New York ultimately came to an end.
He was traded to the Clippers in exchange for Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas on Nov. 21, 2008. And the next brief chapter began.
Stopping in Los Angeles
Randolph only appeared in 39 games (34 starts) for the Clippers. This was a team that was going nowhere fast and wound up drafting Blake Griffin No. 1 overall in the following draft.
So really, there was no place for Z-Bo following the season. They went 19-63 in their final full season under Mike Dunleavy.
After that year, the Clippers dealt him to Memphis. All they got was Quentin Richardson, who was then flipped to Miami.
Grit and Grind
From the very first day he got to Memphis, Randolph was basically back home. He had never lived in Tennessee, but the fit was so perfect.
He was an All-Star for the first time in his career during that 2009-10 year. He meshed perfectly with Marc Gasol in the frontcourt. His toughness played a huge part in the creation of the team’s identity.
The Grizzlies made the playoffs every year from 2003 to 2006. But they were swept in the opening round each time.
Enter Randolph, and as a No. 8 seed, the Grizzlies won not one first-round game, but four. They beat the elite Spurs. It only took one year for them to finally find that success.
For seven years, he was with the Grizzlies. He was selected to another All-Star Game. He was an All-NBA performer.
He was the guy that didn’t know that they had been missing. He signed with the Kings for the 2017-18 season after a year as Memphis’ sixth man.
He would play in 59 games (57 starts) there before suffering an injury in the summer. He was traded to Dallas last season, but he never played again.
He announced his retirement in December, and he will be joining BIG3 when they (hopefully) resume in 2021.
Happy 39th birthday, Zach Randolph. Thank you for the memories.