Just two years ago, the Memphis Grizzlies were referred to as a young and emerging team. Now they are a more established ball club in the basketball world with a diverse roster.
With offense in mind and defense still a priority, the front office has made moves to put a roster in place that can take Memphis deeper into the playoffs
The moves include the addition of newcomer Vince Carter, a seasoned veteran with big-time credentials. With Carter’s entrance and a few other summer tidbits, fans are wondering if more is to come. Or is time to hold’em?
“Right now I think we’re an improved team and a team that will be reckoned with once again in the Western Conference,” said Grizzlies Interim General Manager Chris Wallace.
Wallace spent most of 2013-14 season taking a back seat to former Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien, who abruptly departed the organization in May, along with assistant GM Stu Lash. Internal conflict reportedly was the cause of the management decision to end the relationship with Levien and Lash.
With Wallace back in stride again, he’s been direct about the goal – making sure the team is a contender once again in the Western Conference as well as making a valid run for an NBA championship.
“We’ve become known not just in this country but around the world for our play and the excitement that’s generated in the FedExForum, particularly in the playoffs,” Wallace said. “It’s going to be a very competitive Western Conference again. We feel we’re well fortified to take a step up the ladder.”
Other Grizz moves included resignings and none bigger that Zach Randolph, much to the pleasure of fans who were worried that Randolph might get away.
On June 30th, Randolph exercised his player option for the 2014-15 season and signed a multi-year contract extension with the Grizzlies.
“Zach has become a cornerstone of our franchise, and his contributions have been immense not just on the court but in the Memphis community,” said Wallace. “Through that process, he’s become one of the most popular Grizzlies in the history of the organization.”
Nicknamed “Z-Bo,” Randolph (6-9, 260) recently completed his fifth season in Memphis. He averaged 17.4 points, 10.1 rebounds (ninth in the NBA) and a career-high 2.5 assists on .467 shooting in 34.2 minutes in 79 games (all starts).
As Memphis racked up its second consecutive 50-win season and a franchise-record fourth-straight appearance in the NBA Playoffs, Randolph led the team in scoring average, rebounding average, total points (1,372) and total rebounds (795) for the fourth time since coming to tow.
This past season, Randolph tied for fourth in the NBA in double-doubles (47) and was one of seven NBA players to average at least 17 points and 10 rebounds, recording a double-double average for the seventh time in the last eight seasons and for the eighth time in his 13-year NBA career.
The Grizzlies also re-signed guard Beno Udrih to a multi-year contract.
Udrih (6-3, 205) averaged 4.9 points, 1.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists on .438 shooting in 15.7 minutes in 41 games (12 starts) for the New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies last season. He appeared in 10 regular season contests for the Grizzlies after being awarded to Memphis off waivers on Feb. 27, 2014.
The 31-year-old Udrih posted 7.9 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists on .467 shooting in 16.4 minutes in Memphis’ 2014 opening-round playoff series with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He posted the three highest scoring totals of his playoff career during that seven-game series, netting a postseason career-high 14 points in Game 2 and recording 12 points in Game 3 and Game 7.
Exiting the Grizzlies are Mike Miller (Cleveland Cavaliers) and James Johnson (Toronto Raptors).
‘We’ve got our guy’
Last season the Grizzlies made the NBA Playoffs and were ranked 27th in the league in scoring. The off-season moves are expected to keep the Grizzlies in a competitive position but more changes may be made after training camp.
“As far as the team is concerned could other changes happen? Certainly,” Wallace explained. “Trades could occur, we could sign some more players. But as far as major free agent signings, we’re pretty well done right now. We’ve used a big piece for a mid-level exception.
“So you’re not going to see us in the big picture as far as in the major signage from here on out. We’ve got our guy (Carter).”