Sacramento Kings: Zach Randolph’s ongoing role reinvention

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images /

After building a legacy with the Memphis Grizzlies over the last eight seasons, Zach Randolph comes to the Sacramento Kings, who are dealing with vastly different expectations than he has been used to in years past.

As indicated by all the moves they made this offseason, the Sacramento Kings are in the midst of trying to reinvent themselves after years of futility.

It just so happens that one of their headlining additions over the summer knows a thing or two about reinventing himself. Now a veteran of 17 years in the league, Zach Randolph comes to the Kings carrying a wealth of experience — a key for a team as young and unseasoned as this one heading into the year.

Considering his ties to Kings head coach Dave Joerger, who he played under as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, as well as the offer the Kings made to lure Randolph to come to Northern California, it was definitely an opportunity that the Indiana native couldn’t have passed up.

But by coming to Sacramento, Randolph leaves the team and city that acted as the rebirth of what was once considered his wayward career.

Over his eight seasons in Memphis, Randolph became a two-time All-Star, a Third Yeam All-NBA selection in the 2010-11 season and one of the franchise’s all-time great players in its young history.

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In addition to those individual achievements, Randolph experienced seven consecutive winning seasons with the Grizzlies and made it as far as the Western Conference Finals in the 2012-13 season.

But now at 36 years old, Randolph is obviously deep into the latter stages of his prolific career.

In order to preserve his body over the grind of the long regular season after logging as many minutes as he has in his career, Randolph embraced coming off the bench last year with the Grizzlies.

By doing so, Randolph packed a scoring punch for the team as he scored 20.7 points by per 36 minutes, albeit under diminishing efficiency (Randolph posted a 49 percent true shooting percentage last season).

The expectation has been that a similar role will carry over into Randolph’s move to Sacramento and Joerger even flirted with bringing Randolph off the bench for 15 games in his last season at the helm of the Grizzlies in 2015-16.

But where Randolph accepted that role with a team that had been a perennial playoff contender, it’s a different kind of sacrifice to ask of a player of his stature on a Kings team that is finally taking the long view after years of incessantly aiming for playoff success that they never came close to fulfilling.

With that being said, the bigger sticking point very well may be how Joerger chooses to use him late in games throughout the season.

Of course, Randolph knew what he was signing up for when he signed with the Kings in the offseason, but that patience will certainly be tested when Joerger gives the likes of Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein that kind of opportunity over Randolph at times throughout the year.

More than anything else, Randolph will be looked at to show those two players — as well as the entire foundation of young players the Kings have assembled — the ropes and to build the toughness needed to withstand the physicality of the league.

The groundwork for that is obviously being done throughout the team’s training camp as well as preseason, and it will continue to be a big part of the team’s development over the course of the season and next year as well. While we still get used to seeing Randolph donning purple and silver, a lot will be asked of him over these next two years, both on and off the court.

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With immediate success not as high of a priority as it once was for the Kings, how Randolph balances what’s best for himself and what’s best for the team in the long run will be an interesting dynamic to keep an eye on this year.