Memphis power forward Zach Randolph has begun preliminary talks with the team about an extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Randolph has a player option worth more than $16.9MM for next season, but it appears he and the team are ready to discuss a future that extends beyond 2014/15. Randolph and owner Robert Pera have spoken within the past week, and agent Raymond Brothers indicated a fondness for Pera and especially GM Chris Wallace, who’s been restored to power in the front office on an interim basis.
“We have a great level of comfort and trust with Robert Pera and Chris Wallace,” Brothers said. “Chris and I have been working together for years. He is a good guy.”
Wallace’s return seem to auger well for the negotiations, as Wojnarowski hears that agents and GMs around the league are “thrilled” to once more do business with him. Wallace hadn’t set foot in his office for nearly a year as he languished in virtual exile under former CEO Jason Levien‘s reign in charge of the team’s basketball operations, but with Levien fired, Wallace is a candidate to stay in control of the roster for the long haul. Wallace will remain within the organization one way or another, according to Pera.
The offseason ahead for Wallace and the Grizzlies hinges on Randolph, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago when I previewed the summer for Memphis. Randolph spoke on multiple occasions this year of a desire to stay in Memphis for the rest of his career, though trade rumors invoking his name annoyed him and prompted him to question the organization’s loyalty. He’ll be 33 in July, and a report from Marc Stein of ESPN.com indicated that he’d be in line for a three-year deal worth $30-35MM if he turned down his option and hit the market this summer.
Such an agreement would represent a significant comedown in pay from the more than $18.2MM he made this year. Randolph had a strong season, scoring 17.4 points per game with an 18.3 PER, and he remains a pivotal inside force who embodies the hardscrabble Grizzlies. Still, his age dictates that he won’t see the salaries he’s accustomed to in a new deal, and that makes him a prime candidate for an extension. Veterans with upside tend to shy away from extensions because they can tack no more than three additional years onto a contract with a starting salary of no more than 107.5% of what the player made in the final season of the existing contract.
Randolph won’t approach such a salary limit, but regardless of whether he declines his option, an extension with Memphis would mandate a salary no less than what he would have made on the option. That would be more than he’s likely to receive from the team in a new deal, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Randolph and Brothers push hard for an extension before they have to decide on the option at the end of June.