Coming off arguably his best season ever, Zach Randolph expects to see the money. Memphis is expecting something else.
The upcoming labor negotiations are looming ahead with uncertainty for many teams and many players looking to re-sign. As of now, it is projected that annual NBA player contracts will be cut by one third. Makes owners happy but for players like Randolph, cashing in could be harder than they originally expected.
Last season, Randolph averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. Memphis finished the season just under .500 with a 40-42 record and missed the playoffs. However, we began to see the emergence of Rudy Gay and Randolph was named an All Star for the first time in his career. He had cleaned up and shaped up but that doesn’t mean the money is coming.
Memphis just agreed to a five-year, $45 million extension with Mike Conley despite his inconsistency. In July, Gay signed an $80 million with the Griz. Randolph is coming off of back-to-back seasons of averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds a game while pushing for his fifth consecutive season of averaging at least a double-double, trailing only Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard. However, Memphis wont even discuss an extension with Randolph who is in the last season of his contract with the Griz for $17.3 million.
This season, he is their second leading scorer and rebounder and Memphis could be making a mistake. Randolph has the intangibles of leadership and hustle. His past mistakes in Portland are gone and he has matured. The Griz are definitely looking at the possibility of letting go of Hasheem Thabeet this summer and that would free up some money to hold onto “Z Bo” and move forward from the past with some actual depth.
The players want the money right now to avoid the cut in salary that will soon be enforced (in theory). The teams are waiting on the opposite. In this case, Memphis is biding its time before the negotiations in order to get Randolph at a very low price.
He isn’t the only one that seems to be stuck in contract limbo due to these upcoming changes. Only five 2007 first-round picks have signed contract extensions with their teams by the November 1 deadline, a record low.
However, we have already seen that projected cuts by analysts and David Stern does not always draft over to actually occurring. For instance, we thought that the salary cap would cut by millions last summer and it went up instead. Both parties are deeply interested in maintaining or acquiring what they want from these talks and it wont be easy for just one to win.
Players and owners are mixed up in a waiting game right now with a lot of money at stake and we all know that money is what makes this NBA league go round.