By The Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Zach Randolph is sticking with the Memphis Grizzlies four more years, and by the looks of things punishing the San Antonio Spurs for at least another week.
Randolph said Monday he’ll sign a four-year extension with Memphis, a deal the 29-year-old said was in the works long before he led the eighth-seeded Grizzlies to their first playoff victory, 16 seasons after the franchise debuted in Vancouver.
He said he agreed to the extension after the front office assured him that re-signing 26-year-old Marc Gasol was next.
The big and bruising forward beat up the Spurs for 25 points and 14 rebounds in Game 1 and teamed with 7-footer Gasol to show top-seeded San Antonio the daunting frontcourt challenge that lies ahead.
“Our goal is to shock people,” Randolph said. “I ain’t going to say just win one game.”
Game 2 is Wednesday in San Antonio before the series shifts to Memphis, which hosts Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday.
Between himself, Gasol, forward Rudy Gay and guard Mike Conley, Randolph sees his extended contract as the start of building a championship contender.
“I definitely think it’s realistic,” said Randolph, who’s expected to sign the contract in the coming days. “You see where we came come from, and where we’re at.”
The contract extension is a validation for Randolph, who’s been traded three times and has spent two years in Memphis trying to shed his reputation as a hot-tempered troublemaker. Portland practically gave him away to New York in 2007, the cap-clearing Knicks shopped his contract to the Los Angeles Clippers a year later, and the Clippers didn’t need him after drafting Blake Griffin.
“No,” Randolph said Monday, when asked if Griffin was better than him.
At the very least, he’s the best player so far in this playoff series.
Spurs forward Matt Bonner confessed Monday to waking up a little sore after defending Randolph, who’s listed around 255 pounds. DeJuan Blair, who had five fouls in Game 1, challenged reporters to try to get out there and guard him.
“He’s a beast,” Blair said.
After the Spurs dropped their sixth consecutive playoff series opener, Tim Duncan tried to take the blame by saying he was paying too much attention to Randolph and not Gasol, who hurt the Spurs just as badly with 24 points on 9 of 10 shooting.
“(Tim) is just being humble, but it’s pretty easy to pay attention to Zach Randolph,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I think our players paying attention to him is probably a good thing.”
At the Spurs’ practice, the most attention was on All-Star guard Manu Ginobili, who didn’t play in Game 1 because of his right elbow sprain. Ginobili didn’t speak with reporters but shot jumpers while wearing a bulky sleeve over the arm.
Popovich said they’re still taking a wait-and-see approach on Ginobili for Wednesday’s game, but his teammates expected their big-shot player back in the lineup.
Across town, Memphis practiced without Shane Battier, who hit the biggest shot of all in Game 1. Battier hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 23.9 seconds left, then learned after the game that his wife gave birth to a baby girl. Battier left the team Monday to be with his family.
Battier had been on all three Memphis teams swept out of the first round from 2004 to 2006, the franchise’s previous playoff appearances.
Randolph said he expects the Game 1 win to be the start of many for Memphis.
He remembers the scrutiny among fans and media when Memphis traded for him last season, but the Grizzlies have embraced him as their leading scorer and a franchise player. Randolph averaged 20 points for the third consecutive season, and his 12.2 rebounds a game were a career high.
“He’s been the foundation that’s taken us from being a 20-win team up into the 40-win range,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. “If we do all we done this year and Zach were to walk at the end of the year, we were to go backward.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.