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Grizzlies chemistry in flux as Zach Randolph trade rumors emerge

By Matt Moore | NBA writer
They wouldn't trade him ... would they? (Getty Images)

Player comments indicate a significant problem with the Memphis Grizzlies' team chemistry as well as in the attitude of the head coach, and all of a sudden, talk of a potential Zach Randolph trade has popped up as well.

For three years, the Grizzies have emerged as what I would call a sub-contender, due to not only their considerable talent, but the chemistry that allowed that talent to work together. It was a happy, if not naive, locker room, of veterans and younger players who found a common identity linked to the city's blue collar attitude. The mantra of the 2011 playoffs, which found the Grizzlies netting their first franchise playoff series win and a solid run against the Thunder, was "All Heart, Grit, Grind."

When new ownership took over this year, they did what any new ownership group does. Robert Pera installed Jason Levien, who in turn hired John Hollinger and other advisors, to push the franchise in the direction they wanted to go. Change is always met with resistance.

Lionel Hollins met that change with stern resistance, lashing out publicly at the idea of trading Rudy Gay and a metrics-centric approach that challenged his autonomy.

But Gay was going to be traded. He was always going to be traded -- if not by Robert Pera and Co., then by Michael Heisley. If not by Jason Levien, then by Chris Wallace. If not this year, then the next. This is the financial reality, not just of the NBA under the new CBA, but just of the world. You can't net a $25 million loss and then keep on hiking up your costs under more and more extensive luxury tax measures. In a perfect world, you could keep everyone. It's not a perfect world. Rudy Gay was traded to Toronto, and in return, the Grizzlies got quality return back on investment.

Lionel Hollins didn't like it.

And now, after the Grizzlies' loss to the Suns Tuesday night, the chemistry of the entire team is out of whack. First, via the Commercial-Appeal, Hollins blamed the loss on the fact that the team has traded all of his backup centers.

Explaining the loss, Hollins twice pointed out that when Gasol got in foul trouble, he couldn't put in another big to match up with Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat.

"One of the issues that I have is that neither Darrell or Ed (Davis) are fives. We don't have another big guy. We weren't able to play big and have two bigger people across the board because we don't have a bigger guy to put in the game."

In other words, Hollins no longer had Mo Speights or Hamed Haddadi because they were traded away. Did Hollins mean it as a shot?

It almost doesn't matter, honestly. When the head coach spends part of his press conference lamenting what he no longer has on his roster, that's not a good sign.

(via Geoff Calkins: These Griz are grinding to a halt » The Commercial Appeal)

It's fine for a coach to want more depth. But he can't really demand it when the team is paying top dollar for starters. The Grizzlies have a solid four-man bigs rotation. Darrell Arthur, who has played center many times over the past four years, is the backup center. Ed Davis, a very talented and promising young player who can defend and stretch the floor, is the backup power forward. For whatever reason, Hollins doesn't seem to think much of Davis. Which is nuts. He said after the trade that Davis finding minutes would be difficult. That's also nuts. Davis was starter-worthy in Toronto, and isn't a suitable upgrade for Marreesse Speights? I'm one of the six guys in the world who has always liked Speights' game, and I know Davis is an upgrade on Speights.

Then there's the system. Memphis traded away its best perimeter player and in return got spot-up shooters in Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye. They were able to trade Gay, because the team could operate more in the post with Zach Randolph. So what happened Tuesday night, when Randolph got one shot in the fourth quarter?

Zach Randolph got exactly one shot in the fourth quarter. This on a night when he looked more like his own self, going for 21 points and 13 rebounds.

Why?

"That's what coach wants," said Randolph. "Our game is pick-and-roll now."

(via Geoff Calkins: These Griz are grinding to a halt » The Commercial Appeal)

So you lost your best perimeter guy... and you have two of the best post players in the league... and now you think you should run pick-and-roll.

OK, I'm going to just come out and ask this question.

Is Lionel Hollins trying to get fired?

Don't get me wrong, I don't care about the Suns loss. It's a regular-season game in February less than a week after a major trade, and the Suns inexplicably match up really well with Memphis (go back and read up on the previous games between the two teams for further evidence). But it's the approach that is problematic, the attitude that is vexing, and the results are just icing on the cake.

Hollins is in the last year of his contract. It's an evaluation period. He's been the best coach in the history of the franchise. But change happens, and you either roll with it or you get ditched.

Meanwhile, ESPN reports that instead of full-steam ahead, the Grizzlies could be looking at a full-scale blow-up, that trading Zach Randolph is still on the table.

Scott (Memphis)

Are Griz done dealing?

Chad Ford (1:19 PM)

Seriously doubt it. Zach Randolph looks like a marked man.

(via Chat: Chat with Chad Ford - SportsNation - ESPN)

Trading Randolph ... would be disastrous. You might as well liquidate the entire team in that scenario. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley aren't going to enjoy going back to a lottery team after starting the year with the best record in franchise history. ZBo is the most popular player in franchise history and the emotional core of the team.

This could be a blip. A five-game winning streak and all this goes away, especially after the trade deadline This team is still incredibly good in several areas. But its biggest strength, the thing that made the city fall in love with them and brought them to a higher level than their talent would indicate, was their chemistry. And more and more it seems the problems extend well past Rudy Gay.

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