|Randolph returns to Memphis as member of Kings|
Zach Randolph returns to Memphis for the first time since leaving as a free agent in the offseason on Friday night when the Grizzlies host the Sacramento Kings.
The Grizzlies will attempt to extend their winning streak to three games for the first time since the first three games of the season, facing a reeling Kings club that will take the court saddled with a six-game losing streak, one shy of their season-high.
The battle of two of the Western Conference's losingest teams has been circled on many Grizzlies fans' calendars ever since Memphis allowed Randolph to walk as a free agent in July.
The 36-year-old, a fan favorite in Memphis, signed a two-year, $24 million deal with the Kings, ending an eight-year run with the Grizzlies during which the team made the playoffs seven times.
The Grizzlies have announced that Randolph's No. 50 will be retired.
"Zach, you helped turn a lottery team into a perennial playoff contender," Grizzlies owner Robert Pera wrote in an open letter to Memphis fans, announcing the decision to retire the number. "You helped make a basketball team a model of community service. Thank you for all that you put into this community and this organization. #50 will never be worn by another member of the Memphis Grizzlies."
The Kings will return to Memphis for a second time on April 6.
Randolph left the team as the franchise's all-time leading rebounder at 10.2 per game. That number has dipped to 6.8 this season for the Kings, Randolph's lowest since his second year with Portland.
He was held to just four points and six rebounds when the Grizzlies won 114-96 in a visit to Sacramento in December.
Randolph has since gotten caught up in a youth movement in Sacramento. Coach Dave Joerger recently announced that he would be "resting" two veterans per game, and did so with Randolph and Vince Carter in a 95-88 loss to Oklahoma City on Monday.
Carter and Garrett Temple were benched for Wednesday's 120-105 home loss to Utah.
"It's not an easy conversation," Joerger said of informing proven NBA players they will be losing time to younger guys. "They're very professional; they're competitive. All of them are rotation players on a playoff team. So to ask those guys to step aside at different times is not enjoyable for me. They handled it well; they've been pros."
The Kings open their six-game trip Friday against a team that shed two of its veteran players (including guard Tony Allen) after last season. The younger lineup recently has turned things in a positive direction.
Memphis had the upper hand most of the way and then survived an exciting finish when they turned back the New York Knicks 105-99 on Wednesday night.
It gave the Grizzlies their first two-game winning streak since October.
Randolph won't be facing one of his old pals, and perhaps even a second, in his homecoming.
The Grizzlies have been without star point guard Mike Conley for most of the season with Achilles soreness. Center Marc Gasol sat out Wednesday's game with an illness.
JaMychal Green has had the unenviable task of filling Randolph's shoes. The 27-year-old is coming off one of his best games -- 18 points and 13 rebounds against the Knicks -- after having posted similar numbers (20 points, 14 rebounds) in a win last week over New Orleans.