MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer, was suspended one game by the NBA on Friday and will miss Game 7 of the first-round playoff series with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The suspension, without pay, comes for punching Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams in the jaw Thursday with 6:42 remaining in Game 6, which OKC won, 104-84, to avoid elimination and force Saturday’s knockout game.
The Grizzlies were already preparing to deal with the possible absence of the team’s second-leading scorer, point guard Mike Conley, who aggravated a strained right hamstring on Thursday and did not practice on Friday. Conley is undergoing treatment to the leg and hopes to play, but that will likely be a game-time decision.
The NBA release included a link to a video in which Randolph and Adams appear momentarily tangled but then Randolph gathers himself, clenches his right fist and delivers a right hook that lands solidly on Adams’ jaw.
Adams, a 7-foot rookie from New Zealand selected in the first round of the 2013 draft, had by far his best game of the series in Game 6, with five blocks, three rebounds and four fouls battling Memphis’ big men down low.
His play Thursday received much praise after the game.
Though Randolph’s 18.2 points per game average in the series is higher than his regular-season average of 17.4 points, he has struggled to finish and is connecting on only 40.3 percent of his shots from the field. He has missed 16 of the 41 free-throws.
In November 2012, the NBA fined Randolph $25,000 for his role in a confrontation with Thunder big man Kendrick Perkins, but he was not suspended. The Grizzlies have since adopted a phrase Randolph used after that incident — “I don’t bluff” as one of the team’s slogans, even putting “We Don’t Bluff” on growl towels.
Grizzlies spokesman Jason Wallace said coach Dave Joerger would address the situation Saturday at the team shootaround in Oklahoma City.
Randolph is being paid $17.8 million this season, or more than $215,000 per game. Randolph has a player option he can exercise for 2014-15 to stay with the Grizzlies and make $16.5 million.
Or he could opt out and test the market as a free agent, possibly meaning his remarkable run as a Grizzly could end with him barred from the court, on the road, in a Game 7. Opting out could also result in his signing a new deal with Memphis. Randolph came to the Grizzlies before the 2009-10 season in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Grizzlies have made the playoffs in the last four seasons with him as the team’s focal point offensively.
For Game 7, the Grizzlies may have the services of another key player — Conley — but it’s anyone’s guess how effective he’ll be.
“It feels sore,” Conley said at the team media availability Friday, hours before the Randolph news broke. “It’s not as bad as I thought waking up (Friday) morning. But it’s still really, really sore, really tight. Haven’t done much moving on the court yet, just been getting treatment.”
Conley’s teammates, though, expressed with certainty that their point guard will give it a go in Oklahoma City. Tony Allen said Conley has been playing through aches and pains all season, so this is just another ailment. And Marc Gasol insisted Conley will not only play but give it everything he has, with effectiveness to be determined later.
Reporter Michael Cohen contributed to this story.