HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It’s never easy losing a solid player, much less a big man, much less your heart and soul … and much less in a 66-game season. So now you know how the Grizzlies feel this morning. In a word: crummy.
Zach Randolph will be gone as long as eight weeks with a knee injury, and eight weeks will feel like 12 this season. OK, so let’s do the math here. If Z-Bo does the eight week max with a slight tear of the medial collateral ligament (no surgery required), then we’re looking at the start of March for his return. Then you must factor in the expected rust from sitting out. Then you must consider the schedule squeeze, where the Grizzlies (and every team) must play a plethora of back-to-backs and six-games-in-eight-nights, and coach Lionel Hollins gives Z-Bo some rest. Then you must weigh whether Z-Bo, at his advanced age, will recover quickly.
Now we’ve reached the playoffs. Wait. Given all that, will the Grizzlies make the playoffs?
See what I mean?
Under normal conditions — 82 games normal — Memphis would be down but certainly not out. But this season is anything but normal, and considering the Grizzlies looked sluggish before Z-Bo fell in a heap, this might not be a pleasant 2011-12 for the biggest surprise of last spring’s playoff stretch. Basically, there’s no guarantee the Grizzlies will make the playoffs, and even if they do, grab one of the better seeds and avoid a tough first-round matchup (of course, they had a tough one last year as the No. 8 seed, and dusted off the Spurs before going seven with OKC). For whatever reason, the Grizzlies have yet to recapture the same magic dust they inhaled a year ago, which makes their spot in the West appear tenuous. And now there’s the Z-Bo injury and the state of the Grizz appears somewhat foggy.
They did beat the Timberwolves Wednesday night — read the account here: But Memphis is 3-3 and still waiting to peel off a streak that may or may not be forthcoming.
So: Who might claim the No. 8 spot in the playoffs, as the Grizzlies did a year ago? Minnesota must be mentioned, and definitely the Rockets. Are you sold on Utah’s last few games (me: no)? Could it be the Mavericks fall to 8? The picture is a bit hazy now, as you might imagine, given the early season. But we’ll definitely check back in a month to see how the conference is shaking out.
Then again, maybe Memphis gets the eight seed again. At least we know the Grizzlies know what to do with it.