Zach, we hardly knew ye.
Having become the all-time leading Los Angeles Clippers scorer in his 39 games with the team, Zach Randolph was packaged for delivery to Memphis on Wednesday when the teams agreed to a deal that will bring back former Clipper Quentin Richardson, and open a starting spot for rookie Blake Griffin.
Because of salary cap rules, the deal can’t be completed until next week.
A Clippers spokesman had no comment.
Randolph, a low-post scoring machine, averaged 20.9 points a game in his short stint here, eclipsing Elton Brand’s Los Angeles Clippers career mark of 20.3.
Randolph arrived three weeks into the season in a trade with the Knicks, and was a core part of their plans -- right up until the Clippers drew the top pick in the lottery, enabling them to draft Griffin, one of the top power forward prospects in recent years.
Amid speculation they would trade one of their big men, speculation that focused on centers Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby, a consensus grew among Clippers officials that if someone had to go, it should be Randolph.
Trading Camby, whom half the league wanted, would have left them depending on Kaman, which hadn’t worked out before.
On the other hand, trading Kaman, who was movable, if not in great demand, would have left the Clippers with the 35-year-old Camby, who missed 20 games last season.
Trading Randolph meant they couldn’t bring Griffin along slowly.
However, it also meant there wouldn’t be any bad feelings about who got the minutes at power forward.
Otherwise, with getting Griffin experience a priority, some of his minutes would have come out of Randolph’s, and he might not have liked that.
With every manner of inner turmoil last season, the last thing the Clippers needed was another snit.
The move also frees the Clippers to run, something else they tried unsuccessfully to do last season. It might have continued to be a challenge with Randolph, a half-court player, but fits perfectly with the athletic Griffin.
In a surprise, the Clippers didn’t do it to dump salary. Owner Donald T. Sterling actually resisted the move when a similar deal with Memphis came up on draft day, saying he wanted to do it only if it was a “basketball decision.”
When his people said it was a basketball decision, the deal was resurrected.
Nevertheless, with Randolph under contract for two more seasons at $33 million, and Richardson on the last year of his deal at $8.7 million, it will impact their bottom line, and, with their payroll now far below the salary cap after this season, can make them a major player in the big 2010 free-agent class.