If Zach Randolph had his way, he and Marc Gasol would hold down the Memphis Grizzlies frontline for the rest of their respective careers.
In an interview with Real GM published Friday, Randolph praised his Spanish teammate who has helped form one of the most formidable defenses in the NBA.
“We want to keep this going and we want to stay together,” Randolph said on Friday. “Me and Marc, we complement each other so well. It’s hard to play against us, especially when we’re both going on both ends and we’re both down there.
“My game has matured. I play the right way. I’ve developed. Nothing clicked, I just matured as a player – getting better and helping my teammates.”
Always talented in the paint as a scorer and elite rebounder, Randolph bounced around the league for three years as a locker room pariah before Memphis traded for him in 2009. Since then he’s turned his image and the Grizzlies fortunes around.
In the first two full seasons with Randolph and Gasol down low, Memphis escaped the first round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and last year made its inaugural trip to the Western Conference finals.
Despite the success and his desire to stay, Randolph and Memphis face difficult decisions down the road. Randolph wouldn’t say whether he plans to exercise his $16.5 million player option for next season or test free agency, which puts the Grizzlies in an difficult position.
At 32, Randolph has one last chance of landing a maximum-level contract, which Memphis might pass on.
Randolph could leave with Memphis getting nothing in return, or the front office could flip him for young assets and continue the rise up the West with blossoming forwards Ed Davis and Quincy Pondexter.
Memphis, at 19-19, is also three games back of the West’s final playoff spot. They could decide to forgo a playoff run and focus on the future.
Earlier this season the Grizzlies were reportedly testing Randolph’s value on the trade market, with a deal involving the New Orleans Pelicans and sharpshooting forward Ryan Anderson. Both sides later squashed the alleged deal as hearsay.
In his first two seasons in Memphis, Randolph averaged more than 20 points and 11 rebounds per game, and would have extended that torrid run if not for a knee injury limiting him to 28 games in the 2011-12 season. With 17 points and 10.4 rebounds per game this season, Randolph is one of just eight players in the league averaging a double-double.
One team that could certainly use Randolph’s size down low, and is reportedly open for a trade is the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavs are clinging to the No. 8 seed and are ranked 27 th in the league in rebounds per game. Team president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson didn’t completely rule a move out.
"You never say never, but we do like the team,'' Nelson said to the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram. "With nine new faces we’re not looking for reasons to change.
"But that being said, if an opportunity presents itself that can take us over the top we certainly have to look at it.''
The Mavericks have positioned themselves to stay competitive while clearing cap space since capturing the 2011 NBA title. Superstar and highest-paid player Dirk Nowitzki’s $22 million comes off the books this summer, as does Shawn Marion’s $9 million deal, and Vince Carter’s $3 million.
All told, the Mavs have a mere $26 million devoted to player contracts next season, which should make them highly competitive for possible free agents like New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.