Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 1/4/12
The Memphis Grizzlies were the surprise of the NBA last summer, riding Zach Randolph's broad shoulders to within one win of the Western Conference finals. If they hope to build on that momentum this season, they'll have to do it without their burly power forward and unquestioned leader for the next two months. Randolph is expected to miss six to eight weeks after tearing a ligament in his right knee, the team announced on Wednesday. The 6-foot-9, 255-pound Randolph tore his right MCL in the first quarter of the Grizzlies 104-64 loss at Chicago on Sunday. Randolph had an MRI on Tuesday, and the team learned of the prognosis Wednesday afternoon before they played at Minnesota. It's a crushing blow to the Grizzlies, who had never made it out of the first round of the playoffs in their nine seasons before last year's remarkable run, the deepest a No. 8 seed has ever gone. Randolph scored at least 30 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds four times in the playoffs last season, and he also provided some toughness on defense. The 29-year-old Randolph led the Grizzlies in scoring through the first four games of the season with an average 14.8 points and had grabbed 7.5 rebounds per game. More importantly, they lose their emotional core and the player whose maturity and evolving game elevated one of the league's moribund franchises to a contender in the powerful West. An 11-year NBA veteran, Randolph was selected to the 2010-11 All-NBA third team last season after leading Memphis to the semifinals and averaging 20.1 points and a career-high and franchise-record 12.2 rebounds during the regular season. He teamed with emerging star center Marc Gasol to give the Grizzlies one of the most formidable front courts in the league, a bruising tandem that dominated the boards and racked up the points in the paint. Now, with forward Darrell Arthur already out for the season with an Achilles injury, the Grizzlies will likely have to turn to Dante Cunningham and the newly acquired Marreese Speights, who came over in a trade from Philadelphia on Wednesday to fill in up front. Randolph's injury will put more onus on Rudy Gay, who is still trying to find his game after missing the final three months of last season with a shoulder injury. Gay leads the team with 15.2 points per game, but he had made 6 of 23 shots in two games before breaking out against Sacramento on Tuesday with 23 points on 10 of 16 shooting.
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