Grizzlies, with focus on pace, will bring Zach Randolph off bench

MEMPHIS -- Coach David Fizdale launched the promotional campaign on Wednesday for Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph's Sixth Man of the Year bid.

It essentially started immediately after Fizdale revealed to reporters that Randolph, a two-time All-Star entering his 16th NBA season, would transition to a reserve role on a permanent basis during the final year of his contract with the Grizzlies.

"Zach's coming off the bench this year," Fizdale told reporters after practice Wednesday, a couple of days after JaMychal Green started the preseason opener instead of Randolph. "We've talked about it. He's been incredible about the whole situation. He's embracing that role. Like I told him, I said, 'Most likely, no one's going to pay you to be a starter from here on out, so let's audition you for what you're going to be for the rest of your career.' And it really clicked with him.

"We're going to go after Sixth Man of the Year. I want to highlight the hell out of him in that second unit. I need him to be a leader in that second unit, and he's really embraced that."

Randolph, 35, came off the bench in 15 of the 68 games he played last season under former Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger. Randolph averaged 15.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last season, down a bit from his career averages of 17.0 points and 9.4 rebounds.

Randolph, a major factor in Memphis' six consecutive playoff appearances, said he has no issue with his new role.

"I feel like I can be a starter, of course, and carry a team like I did last year," Randolph said. "But I'm being positive and staying ready. If Coach wants me to play 10 minutes, I'll come in and play the hardest 10 minutes."

Randolph said he appreciated Fizdale's direct approach in explaining the decision to him.

Fizdale, a longtime assistant with the Miami Heat before being hired by the Grizzlies, has made playing at a faster pace an emphasis in Memphis. It's difficult to do that if the 6-foot-9, 260-pound Randolph and 7-foot-1, 255-pound center Marc Gasol continue to be paired together consistently.

"Let's not dance around it and act like it's not there," Fizdale said. "Playing Marc and Zach together is not a formula for pace, so why even mess around with it? And that's why I went directly to [Randolph]. And I'm not saying I won't play them together throughout the year, because some of these teams are so bruising that, yeah, there will be moments throughout the game that I have to match up both of my big guys against theirs. But to start the game, going into games, we're going to make sure that our pace and our speed is at the right level that it needs to be at to play our style of play.

"But at the same time, Zach has an extremely valuable role on this team scoring off the bench. Everybody's talked about that in the offseason: 'What kind of second unit do they have? They can't score.' Well, guess what? We can score now. We've got a legitimate, bona fide scorer in that second unit with Zach Randolph."