Well, it looks like the David Lee-Zach Randolph question within the organization has resolved itself in the form of the lower-risk financially and higher-risk on the court and in the locker room route of Zach Randolph.
The L.A. Times' Mark Heisler is reporting tonight that the Grizzlies and Clippers have agreed to a deal that would exchange Zach Randolph for Quentin Richardson. The Times says the deal won't be consummated until next week. I haven't been able to confirm the deal, but I presume it's true as this is the direction the team seemed to be heading in following Ric Bucher's report of Michael Heisley objecting to giving an offer-sheet to David Lee.
I'm facing deadlines with non-Griz work tomorrow and won't be able to get into this heavily for probably a couple of days, but some quick reactions and questions:
1. The big question, obviously, is the potential negative impact on a young locker room that hasn't demonstrated strong leadership at this point. Randolph has a history — not just with criminal and/or other bad incidents — that can't be ignored. The Blazers were so eager to get him away from their young team that they traded him for a washed-up Steve Francis and paid something like $30 million to buy out Francis. Essentially, they paid that money to make Randolph go away. Similarly, the Knicks and the Clippers have been eager to part ways with him after a brief encounter. Everywhere Randolph goes, he puts up numbers, his team loses, and the team gets rid of him.
2. That history can't be ignored, but there are some valid counterarguments: He was put in bad situations in New York and Los Angeles. You can find some encouragement in the comments Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski made about a prospective Randolph deal on The Geoff and Gary Show this afternoon. Wojnarowski — who knows his stuff if any national NBA scribe does — suggested that Randolph has matured and that the Grizzlies would be right to explore acquiring him. You can listen to the Wojnarowski on the podcast player at 730FoxSports.com. (I think it's the third segment of today's Geoff and Gary Show.)
3. It will be interesting to learn to what degree Damon Stoudemire, currently a Grizzlies assistant, was consulted on the acquisition. Stoudemire played with Randolph at Portland early in Randolph's career and presumably knows him well. Could having Stoudemire on the staff has a positive influence on Randolph? We can hope. (Another thing that's been suggested to me but that I haven't confirmed is that Randolph has family in Memphis and spends a lot of his off-season time here, and that he might be happy to try to re-brand his career in Memphis. I don't know if any of this is true, but it may well be.)
4. What happens now to Hakim Warrick? Having a talented scorer and weak defender starting at the four suggests it may not make a lot of sense to have another one backing him up. Will the Grizzlies now rescind their qualifying offer to Warrick and let him walk? Will they try to find him a new home in a sign-and-trade? Is there a chance they keep him? Darrell Arthur makes more sense as Randolph's back-up, and the team now has DeMarre Carroll to play that position as well.
5. If Warrick walks, then the storyline about Heisley taking on more money this season by doing the deal may not be accurate. (Next season is a different story.) Quentin Richardson's contract for this season added to what the team would likely have been paying Warrick would roughly equal Randolph's deal for next year. (I'm not factoring in the reports about deferred payments being built into Randolph's deal because I don't know the details.)
6. How exactly does Randolph fit into the "uptempo, aggressive defense" style Lionel Hollins has been talking about? He doesn't. Of course, Marc Iavaroni talked about a similar style and never developed it. Having Randolph will probably mean more of a halfcourt style. It's on Hollins to get this collection of talent playing a style that gives them the best chance to compete.
7. What happens next with the roster? Losing Richardson creates a hole on the perimeter where another one already existed. Right now, behind a starting trio of Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, and Rudy Gay, the team only has Marko Jaric, Greg Buckner (virtually certain to be either bought out or traded), Sam Young, and Demarre Carroll. Only one of those players is a ballhandler (Jaric, and in his case it's really only a theoretical designation) and none are established three-point threats. In addition to the announced need for a "back-up point guard," the team now probably needs to add another wing player who can shoot it. The Randolph deal still leaves the team with a good deal of cap space, along with Buckner's only partially guaranteed deal as a trade chip and potentially Warrick or Arthur. I'll address candidates for this need as the situation becomes clearer, but a free-agent name that I like I'll throw out right now: Von Wafer.
8. A big-picture question this trade provokes is what it says about the how the team's organizational structure is (dys)functioning. Ric Bucher reported that Chris Wallace wanted to make an offer to David Lee and Mike Heisley overruled it. That's a plausible report, but not one without unanswered questions. As with the talk of dissent over the Hasheem Thabeet pick, I don't think the decision-making is as clear-cut as it's made the sound. I've always gotten the sense the Wallace was intrigued by Randolph — the team did discuss acquiring him from the Knicks a year ago — and wasn't the only person in the front office who felt that way. I had a different team official tell me the day after the draft that's he'd rather take a shot at Randolph than spend big on David Lee.
9. How does this fit the so-called three-year plan? The obvious answer is that it doesn't. But how could it? If you're being optimistic, you'd envision this scenario: Randolph helps the team be competitive next season after three straight years of terrible basketball, something that I think absolutely needs to happen next season. In a strong, power-forward-rich draft next summer, a late lottery pick nets a potential star power-forward of the future, who plays behind Randolph for a year before taking over. The team gets better in the short-term while staying on track long-term. It's possible.
10. Did the Grizzlies give up on free agency too soon? Not knowing what all talks the team had been involved with so far, I think so. I suspect the Randolph deal would still have been there in an couple weeks. If younger, more solid guys like David Lee and Charlie Villanueva (who apparently already has) end up signing multi-year deals that average under $10 million per season, then the Grizzlies made a mistake even if Randolph (who is admittedly more talented than any of the younger free agent power forwards this summer) pans out.
11. Does Michael Heisley really refuse to give anyone a significant long-term deal right now? If so, what impact will this have on a potential Rudy Gay contract extension this summer? I guess we're about to find out.
Okay, I guess that wasn't as brief as I'd anticipated, but I'm done now and will resist re-naming this post "Automatic Writing About Zach Randolph."
(One final thing: Damn you Clippers for turning down the Marko Jaric/Greg Buckner offer. They held out for a better deal for Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies gave it to them. Great.)
UPDATE: A Clipper perspective — the other L.A. team found a "willing sucker." (Kevin makes a good point that I should have about the Grizzlies having some potentially decent center fits to play next to Randolph's single-minded post game.)